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A long while ago, I came across a few dictionary entries under per-, meaning "very." I saw peracer, perbonus, and some others. But, I'm not sure if per- can be used as a prefix for any adjective. Can it? Does it only apply to certain ones? On Wiktionary, many per- words are listed, but not as many as its countless other adjectives.

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Our knowledge of Latin is limited, and if we want to use the language as flexibly as other languages, we need to extrapolate from what we know for sure. This is one of those cases. The prefix per- does not appear with all possible adjectives in extant literature from any era, but it is common enough to argue that it can be used productively. I am not aware of any limitations to its use. Therefore my answer to your question is yes.

To give an example, we have a political party called roughly "True Finns" ("perussuomalaiset"). If I were to render that party name in Latin, I might call them Perfinni. I don't know what to do with capitalization with prefixes in cases like this, but that should be taken to a separate question.

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I think it's partly common sense. For example, I can't imagine them going with indefinite adjectives, e.g. *peraliqui, for which Phi database gives zero results. But would such a word even mean? How do you intensify "any"? It's nonsense.

However, any positive adjective which has a comparative or superlative form can take it no problem. It can also be placed on adverbs (same qualification) and verbs without issue. It was a very productive prefix, so even if we do not have examples of Classical usage, a Roman would still understand it, though its particular meaning would have been restricted by usage (e.g. permaneo means "remain long").

  • Would you really classify aliquis as an adjective? To me it's a pronoun, not an adjective of any kind, but I don't claim that this is the only possible opinion. I'm just wondering if there's anything I would classify as an adjective that could not take per-. – Joonas Ilmavirta Apr 4 '17 at 17:29
  • @JoonasIlmavirta peraliqui is an indefinite adjective. It's used to modify nouns. – C. M. Weimer Apr 5 '17 at 23:53
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    I was going to comment that certain adjectives are intensified by convention with other prefixes, e.g. defessus, and thus could not take per-. But then I found perdefessus – brianpck Apr 6 '17 at 14:13
  • @brianpck Late Christian Latin, though, and a single citation at that. I think it's still a fair observation to make. (Would a Roman in Quintilian's time think it strange or of a lower register? I think so.) – C. M. Weimer Apr 6 '17 at 14:23
  • @brianpck Might also have to do with how defessus replaced fessus as 'tired' in common speech (fessus seems entirely absent from the comic poets, interestingly enough). – C. M. Weimer Apr 6 '17 at 14:25

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