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Background

The verb īnsum has the prefix in-. Prefixing in/in- to words, changes their meaning to ‘in’, ‘on’ et sim., or ‘un-’, ‘non’ et sim. (ɔ:¹ negation).² However, according to Wiktionary, the pronunciation of in changes in some context; this supported by Lewis.

At first, my understanding was that this pronunciation change – ɔ: from [ɪ] to [ĩː] – only occurs where the prefix is not the preposition in, but the actual prefix in-. Even though sounding the same, they have different roots: When meaning ‘in(side)’, it is merely the preposition prefixed; when meaning ‘not’/‘[negation]’, it has the Indo-European origin [*n̥-].5 As it turns out, the pronunciation change is merely a matter of morpheme interaction.

Non of my grammars, however, even the very detailed grammar by Nils Sjöstrand (Gleerups forlag, Malmö/Lund 1960) has any details on these two differences. The only thing I can find that is mildly relevant, is in Sjöstrand § 6.2, explaining the enlonging [I’m sorry, I am not sure what the correct linguistic term is] and nasalisation of vowels in front of ns and nf.

Question

This means that pronunciation alone is not a clue as to whether or not one is dealing with in prefixed, or the prefix in-, as they both will have their pronunciations changed based on which morphemes follow. How can you know whether you are dealing with the preposition or the prefix, and thus the correct meaning of the word?

Somewhat Related

Notes

¹ This is not a smiley; it is the symbol meaning ‘that is’, ‘may be read as’ and similar.

² Egil Kraggerud & Bjørg Tosterud: Latinsk ordbok, Cappelen, Oslo 1998: ‘in i sammensetning’.

I have added the negation tag, but am unsure as to its relevance. Advice on this is appreciated. It could very well be that the tag details should be updated to include questions such as this one.

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    I have never seen "ɔ:" meaning "that is" - where did you get it from? – varro Nov 5 '18 at 21:52
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    I grew up with it. My granddad’s old dictionaries, printed in fraktur, were amongst those that often used it, and it is commonly known in stenography. Realising it was not common knowledge, was surprising to me. AFAIK, it was most commonly used in areas influenced by germanic typographical tradition (such as Scandinavia); it seems to be gaining a resurgence now, with more and more people interested in typography and traditions lost. Some links: typografi.org/forklaringstegn/forklaringstegn.html macbasics.wordpress.com/2015/02/22/… – Canned Man Nov 6 '18 at 9:56
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    Given that you're writing in English, for an audience familiar with Latin, why not use a convention commonly used in English (for example "i.e.", short for "id est")? Unfortunately, using "ɔ:" is confusing, especially in a site with a linguistics flavour, because readers are far more likely to interpret it as an IPA vowel than your intended meaning - certainly I was confused on my first reading :) – psmears Nov 6 '18 at 11:34
  • Two reasons in particular: 1) Realising that the current young students do not have knowledge of it, appears to be a matter of age. 2) Spreading the knowledge. When re-entering uni, I thought it was common knowledge – after all, I had known about it since I was a tiny kid – but soon realised it was not. I assumed this was a matter of age, as people of my own age (in their 30s) were familiar with it. Being that this is a classicist’s site, I assumed this way of spreading knowledge would be appreciated; I hope this was the case. – Canned Man Nov 7 '18 at 11:34
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The negative prefix typically attaches to an adjective, while the prepositional prefix typically attaches to a verb. The distribution is complicated by the existence of adjectives derived from verbs (or at least, participle forms that look very similar to adjectives) and nouns derived from adjectives or from verbs. But if you're looking at a finite verb form such as "īnsum", you can be fairly confident that the prefix in- does not express negation.

As far as I know, you can never determine which prefix is present in a word just from its phonetic form. The vowel would be long before ns or nf for either prefix. In contrast, I don't think that an allomorph with a long vowel is used for the word in in prepositional phrases, where a space is written after it: my understanding is that e.g. in sacello = [ɪn saˈkɛlloː], with a short vowel.

Finite verbs are never or very rarely negated with in-

"Prefix Derivation in Latin", by Dana DINU, says that the negative prefix in- "does not apply to verbs".

So far, I've found two possible exceptions mentioned in some sources. The verb ignōscō, with the meaning "pardon, forgive", is explained in some sources as coming from the negative prefix and (g)nōscō. For example, Lewis and Short says "lit., not to wish to know, not to search into; hence, with esp. reference to a fault or crime, to pardon". I have asked a separate question about ignōscō to try to determine the explanation for this unusual case.

Knapp (1917), when discussing ignosco, mentions indecet as another example, but that verb seems to be extremely rare.

Participle forms are negated with in- more often, but possibly only when they are actually participial adjectives

Here is a quote I found that indicates that in Classical Latin, non was used to negate verbal participles, while in- appears as a negative prefix for participial adjectives. (If you don't understand what those terms mean, it might help to look at my question about how these two categories of participial forms were distinguished in Latin.)

in Classical Latin the synchronic negative of e.g. patiens ‘enduring’ is non patiens, whereas participles with a negative prefix are synchronically non-participial adjectives, e.g. impatiens ‘impatient’.

(p. 30, "Negated Participles in Rgvedic Sanskrit and Proto-Indo-European," by John J. Lowe, Indo-Iranian Journal 54 (2011) 19-38)

If this rule is true, it would make the distribution of non and in- negation in Latin closely analogous to the distribution of not and un- negation in English for participial forms.

  • This is a very interesting answer. Given this be true, you could in fact with some a priori knowledge – as you explain: is the latter part of the word a verb or adjective – tell whether we are dealing with in- or in. Do you have any sources? – Canned Man Nov 6 '18 at 9:59
  • With regards to knowing what you are dealing with by pronunciation, I specifically mention this is not possible in the question. – Canned Man Nov 6 '18 at 10:01
  • Ah, thanks. I will have a read and try to correct my phrasing. The question was rewritten a couple of times. – Canned Man Nov 6 '18 at 10:33
  • I have updated my question to reflect that which is stated under the questions heading. I apologise for inconsistency. – Canned Man Nov 6 '18 at 10:58
  • @sumelic: Thanks for this up-date. Chances are that I've just answered a question on a related issue (e.g., oratio inscripta est is ambiguous: cf. (I) 'the speech is unwritten' and (II) 'the speech was inscribed/signed' (e.g., with the author's name)). Your A nicely explains that oratio inscripta est, in the former reading (i.e., when the neg. prefix is involved) cannot be interpreted as a VERBAL passive but rather as an ADJECTIVAL one. If so, one would expect that no agent by-phrase can be added in oratio inscripta est, understood as an adjectival passive. Is that correct for Latin? – Mitomino Aug 19 at 3:35
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I don't think it's possible to distinguish in meaning "in" from PIE *en and in- meaning "not" from PIE *n̥ from pronunciation alone. It's well known that the /i/ in in- lengthens when followed by certain consonsant combinations such as "ns" and "nf", but as far as I know, that is purely phonetically determined and has nothing to do with the ancestral morpheme.

So, basically, there is no a priori way of distinguishing the two cases.

  • The vowel lengthening is supported by multiple grammars (e.g. Sjöstrand § 6.2.2), so I agree with you on that. But I would find it surprising if there are no grammarians who ever commented on this seeming (unless having knowledge of PIE, which they didn’t) incongruency. Could there perhaps be anything to gather from ancient sources? Your answer still deserves upvotes, for noting the lengthening in front of ns and nf, which learned about after reading your answer. – Canned Man Nov 5 '18 at 21:54
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    @CannedMan: what incongruency are you referring to? That the I in in can be short in some phonetic environments and long in others? – varro Nov 5 '18 at 22:05
  • The inconsistency I am talking about, is the (theoretical?) possibility of words that are both homographs and homophones having different meanings. One could for instances think of a word such as inesse existing in two forms, both written and pronounced the same way, but one meaning ‘be in’ and the other ‘un-be’, ɔ: either ‘not to be’ or ‘cause to cease to exist’. – Canned Man Nov 6 '18 at 11:03

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