Privative a  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

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.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Privative a" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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