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5.6: The Prefixes Spelled <un>

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12

1. A part of a written word that adds meaning to the word is called an element.

2. An element that cannot stand free as a word and that goes at the front of words is called a prefix.

3. A stem that can stand free as a word is called a free stem .

4. All of these words contain the same prefix:

\begin{align*}\text{unable} && \text{unfinished} && \text{unclear} && \text{unworried} && \text{unfriendly} && \text{untruth}\end{align*}unableunfinishedunclearunworriedunfriendlyuntruth

What is the prefix in these words? un-.

5. Divide each of these six words into its prefix and free stem:

Word = Prefix + Free Stem
unable = un + able
unfinished = un + finished
unclear = un + clear
unworried = un + worried
unfriendly = un + friendly
untruth = un + truth
unoriginal = un + original
undecided = un + decided

6. Think about what the word unable means. Then think about what the word able means. What meaning do you think the prefix un- must mean in unable: “not,” “again,” “yesterday,” “more than one”? “not” Does un- seem to mean this same thing in the other five words? Yes.

7. Now look at these seven words:

\begin{align*}\text{unpack} && \text{unbar} && \text{unlock} && \text{undo} && \text{unwrap} && \text{unfold} && \text{untie}\end{align*}unpackunbarunlockundounwrapunfolduntie

What is the prefix in these words? un- Does the prefix have the same meaning in these words that it has words like unreal? No What does it seem to mean in these seven words: “again,” “more than one,” “yesterday,” or reverse?” reverse There are actually two different prefixes spelled <un>. The first un- means “not, opposite”; the second means “reverse, remove.”

8. Divide each of these words into prefix, free stem, and suffix. Show any twinning or final <e> deletion:

Word = Prefix + Free Stem + Suffix
unannounced = un + announc\begin{align*}\cancel{e}\end{align*}e + ed
undecided = un + decid\begin{align*}\cancel{e}\end{align*} + ed
unlocking = un + lock + ing
unlined = un + lin\begin{align*}\cancel{e}\end{align*} + ed
uncolored = un + color + ed
undoing = un + do + ing
unmixed = un + mix + ed
unbuttoned = un + button + ed
untouched = un + touch + ed
unwrapping = un + wrap + p + ing
unbarred = un + bar + r + ed
unfolding = un + fold + ing

8. The prefixes spelled <un> mean two different things: “Not” and “Reverse”.

Word Find. The ‘UN’-shaped Find below contains the following thirty-two words, all of which begin with a prefix un-:

\begin{align*}& \text{unable } \surd && \text{uncooked} \surd && \text{unfit} \surd && \text{unoriginal} \surd \\ & \text{unannounced} \surd && \text{uncut} \surd && \text{unfold} \surd && \text{unsettling} \surd \\ & \text{unarmed} \surd && \text{undecided} \surd && \text{unfriendly} \surd && \text{untapped} \surd \\ & \text{unasked} \surd && \text{undigested} \surd && \text{unlined} \surd && \text{untie} \surd \\ & \text{unbar} \surd && \text{undo} \surd && \text{unlock} \surd && \text{untouched} \surd \\ & \text{uncaged} \surd && \text{undone} \surd && \text{unmixed} \surd && \text{untruthful} \surd \\ & \text{unclear} \surd && \text{unexceptional} \surd && \text{unnamed} \surd && \text{unworried} \surd \\ & \text{uncolored} \surd && \text{unfinished} \surd && \text{unnoticed} \surd && \text{unwrap} \surd \end{align*}

Teaching Notes.

Items 3 and 7. It can be useful to ask the students how they figured out what the prefixes were in these words.

Item 7. Dictionaries distinguish between \begin{align*}un-^1\end{align*} “not” and \begin{align*}un-^2\end{align*} “reverse” primarily because they have different origins. \begin{align*}Un-^1\end{align*} “not” comes from the assumed Indo- European root *ne-, meaning “naught, never, no, none, nor” etc. \begin{align*}Un-^2\end{align*} “reverse” comes from the assumed root *ant- , from which also come the modern prefixes anti- and ante-, and the words antique and until. (For a good, very short introduction to the Indo- European sources of Modern English, see Calvert Watkins, “Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans,” The American Heritage College Dictionary , 1st, 3rd, and 4th eds. [Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1993]. As part of the etymological apparatus of the dictionary, Watkins presents an appendix listing assumed Indo-European roots, together with Modern English words that descend from each. The listing is very useful in tracking down relationships among modern words.) In Old English our \begin{align*}un-^2\end{align*} was spelled <on> but over the centuries its spelling changed, due to the influence of \begin{align*}un-^1\end{align*}. The two prefixes are growing into one, due to the closeness of their form and meanings. Notice, for instance, that in the past tense verb unlocked un- means “reverse” (She unlocked the suitcase), but in the past participle unlocked it means “not” (The unlocked door swung open).

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Date Created:
Oct 09, 2015
Last Modified:
Jun 02, 2016
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