Category Archives: Linguistics

Thoughts on linguistics and languages.

Negatives Without Positives

The title of this piece sounds quite a bit more depressing than it actually is. 

I am not talking about situations with no upside, but simply words that are in common use and carry a negative prefix (“negatives”), but where their base – the word without the prefix, or the word with what is normally the opposite prefix (“positives”) – has fallen into disuse. As we shall see, the principle can be applied to suffices as well.

To borrow a term from zoology, the type species for Negatives Without Positives (NWPs) might be uncouth: you certainly can be uncouth, but you can’t be couth.

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Run That By Me Again…

The word “run” is particularly rich in the number of different (not to mention subtle and colourful) meanings it conveys.

Let’s start with the simplest senses of verb and noun: if you are in a hurry, you run. And if you are fitness-inclined, you go for a run.

But these basic meanings soon give way to more sophisticated nuance.

A Word Cloud for the text of the post <i>Run That By Me Again</i>

A Word Cloud for the text of the post Run That By Me Again

You can run a business. You can run a series of tests — or perform a series of tests; run and perform are equivalent here. But curiously, although you can perform a play, you do not run a play.

You can run the numbers. Or be given the run of the place.

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