Privative a  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The privative a (also known as privative alpha or α privativum) is the prefix a- which expresses negation or absence (e.g. a-theism, a-typical). Originally described for the grammar of Ancient Greek, it goes back to a Proto-Indo-European syllabic nasal *n̥-, the zero ablaut grade of the negation *ne, i.e. /n/ used as a vowel. For this reason, it appears as an- before vowel (e.g. an-alphabetism, an-esthesia, an-archy). The same prefix appears in Sanskrit, also as a-, an-. In Latin, the cognate prefix is in-, and in West Germanic languages (including English) it is un- (on- in Dutch). In North Germanic languages, the -n- has disappeared and Old Norse has ú- (e.g. ú-dáins-akr), Danish and Norwegian have u-, whereas Swedish uses o- (pronounced [u]), and Icelandic uses the etymologically related ó.

See also

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