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Journal of nicholas (3034)

Saturday August 14, 2004
05:47 PM

ignoble

[ #20409 ]

How many negation prefixes are there in English? I knew about ab- an- il- im- in- ir- un-, but ig- is new to me. How many have I missed? And is a- always a variant of an-?

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  • I mainly studied African languages. But I can guess:

    il- im- in- ir- and ig- are almost certainly variants on the same prefix. I think the base is in-, and it varies depending on the root that follows. The 'g' in ig- doesn't strike me as a natural phonological change, so it might be a hang-over from an older language, like the silent 'k' in 'know'.

    ...

    Ah, my guess is right. See allomorphy in English [udel.edu] (pretty far down on the page, under "Allomorphy"), the etymology of ignoble [m-w.com], and a definition of allomorp [sil.org]