Monday, April 25, 2011

U is for un

Un, in English, is a prefix of negation. Un, en français, is the indefinite masculine article. There is no direct English equivalent for un. A single indefinite article encompasses both the masculine and feminine forms, since English, as a language, is ungendered. Like un, un is not unique within the language—a single word for a single function—but unlike un, the choice of prefix is determinative and not determined. Un cannot be une, but the word itself chooses the article. The distinction between in and un, however, is one of connotation. Undistinguished is not the same as indistinguishable. The underlying truth is that negation is far more than a simple absence. It is complex, and infinitely variable.

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