[Ads-l] in- prefix (was "words connected to a single provenance")

Barretts Mail mail.barretts at GMAIL.COM
Thu Aug 30 14:43:16 EDT 2018

Not directly related to the topic overall, but Joel Berson noted in 2014 how the US government required “inflammable” to be changed to “flammable” due to confusion.

http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2014-March/131649.html <http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2014-March/131649.html>


> On 30 Aug 2018, at 11:39, Geoffrey Nunberg <nunbergg at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
>> Date:    Mon, 27 Aug 2018 11:14:38 -0400
>> From:    Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>> Subject: Re: words connected to a single provenance
>> Hmmm. Not sure about your take on “inflammable”, or on “in-“ ever being reanalyzed as an intensifying prefix outside of SNL skits. The earliest uses of “inflammable”—and indeed the only ones currently attested in the “not fully updated” OED entry, derive it as an ordinary formation from transitive “inflame”, i.e. ‘capable of being/becoming inflamed’. It’s the negative that’s the reanalysis, “iN-” ‘not’ + “flammable”. In “infamous” and “infamy”, of course, the negative prefix was there ab ovo. So the two chronologies wouldn’t be parallel, but are you just saying that for speakers (including those not named Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, etc.) who have two lexical items “flammable” and “inflammable”, neither of them involving negative “iN-“, there’s a feeling that there must be *some* connotative difference between the two, and that they’ve settled on the “iN-“ being an intensifier? 
> Yes — for some people, at least. Cf.
> The problem is that the Latin prefix "i(n)" serves as both a negative and an intensifier: 
> inconceivable - not conceivable 
> impossible - not possible 
> but 
> intense - very tense 
> inflammable - very flammable 
> 	http://www.antimoon.com/forum/t6562.htm
> So, basing word meaning strictly on the meanings of each morpheme, inflammable could be interpreted in three possible ways:
> 	• 'not flammable'
> 	• 'flammable from within, able to burst into flame'
> 	• 'extremely flammable’  
> 	Vocablogic http://bit.ly/2Pme2dn
> While most –in prefixes have negative meanings, the ­–in used in inflammable is formed using a different Latin prefix –in, and it has the effect of intensifying the word. In other words, inflammable is something that is easily set on fire. 
> 	• “Too Much Johnson,” which had been shot on highly inflammable nitrate stock, had apparently been lost to the ages. –The New York Times
> 	https://writingexplained.org/?p=13755
> No way to know how extensive this misanalysis is. 
> Another word that sometimes figures in these discussions is ‘invaluable’. My sense is that most people analyze the prefix here as an intensifier or something. At least, you don’t see sentences like “Intangibles like brand loyalty are invaluable, so we won’t pay for them” which would be consistent with the etymology. 
> Valuable means either worth a great deal of money or extremely useful or important.
> Invaluable means extremely useful; indispensable – very valuable, if you will. 
> https://wp.me/pFGlr-lW
>> Besides the locative in- ‘in(to)’ of Germanic origin and the locative iN- ‘in’ of Latin origin (as in “inflammable”), and of course the negative/privative iN- as in “infamous”, “impossible”, is there really ever an intensifying in- or iN- prefix, or at least one of any productivity? OED has an entry for in- prefix 4 with the sense ‘exceedingly, very’, but its only examples are Old English _indryhten_ most noble, infród very wise, _inhold_ thoroughly loyal; Middle English _inred_ deep red. LH
> Geoff

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