Date: Thu, 12 Mar 1998 10:18:13 -0500
Subject: standardization of non-standard forms

Larry Horn laurence.horn[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]YALE.EDU writes:

The redundant use of negative pre- and suffix in words like

unboundless unguiltless unmatchless unshameless
undauntless unhelpless unmerciless

--each amounting to 'Xless' or 'unXful'--was apparently quite common in the
16th and 17th centuries, as of course is the redundant affixation of
unthaw, unloose(n), debone, dissever, etc.

I seem to recall reading that Whorf analyzed some of this latter set
differently, with a prefixal meaning of something like separation or
release rather than negation, specifically with "un-" in "unloose",
"unravel", and perhaps that "unthaw". (Can anyone give a citation for
this?) "Dis-", of course, carries a meaning of separation or scattering in
many words ("disseminate", "disperse"), and separation is certainly part of
the meaning of "dissever". And "debone" can be analyzed with a nominal root
rather than a verbal one, using "de-" 'cause [obj.] to be free of', as in
"debug", "delouse". I prefer this transparent analysis to one that adds a
redundant negating "de-" to the denominal verb "bone", in part because the
zero verbalization of "bone" makes the latter analysis rather opaque.

Mark A. Mandel : Senior Linguist : mark[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]
Dragon Systems, Inc. : speech recognition : +1 617 965-5200
320 Nevada St., Newton, MA 02160, USA :
Personal home page: