Unpaired words: always use a negative prefix? ~ The Linguistics Zone

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Unpaired words: always use a negative prefix?

There are some words that always have a prefix, you don't see their unprefixed form being used much, if at all.

Here are examples:

unkempt: You always hear about a workplace being unkempt, but can something be kempt? Kempt is actually a word, however it is a rarely used antonym of unkempt. The word kempt comes from Old English kemb, meaning "comb". In the 18th century, the negative form unkembed came to mean "uncombed or disheveled".

inert: Derived from the Latin word art meaning "skill". Adding the negative prefix gives us the definition of inert as "inactive, sluggish".

disgruntled: The root word here is gruntle. As in the previous example with kempt, it is a rarely used form. The meaning is "expressing discontent". In this case, the dis- prefix is meant to intensify the root word.


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So if we talk about the word Distracted, does the rule apply to this word too?

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Nice analysis again. I'm 'gruntled' with it :D

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Haha, many of my friends and I have been saying "you're so gruntled" for years. Awesome to read something about its etymology.

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I just have one confusion of where to apply the negative prefixes life un,dis,non,a correctly.We may have come across different fields where they are employed frequently,but we don't know how to apply the correct negative prefixes.

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