Is "dis-" inflectional or derivational?

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Avram
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Is "dis-" inflectional or derivational?

Postby Avram » Wed Jul 30, 2008 7:04 pm UTC

Got into a big argument over this with my ling. prof. He insisted that dis- (as in "disappear") is inflectional because is doesn't change the syntactic category of its base. I showed him quotes from the textbook and his own lecture slides which stated very clearly that derivational affixation need not always result in a change in the part of speech (e.g kingdom, friendship, doghouse)

I think it is derivational for the following reasons:

A) its meaning isn't always predictable (e.g. disinherit vs. inherit; discover vs. cover; display vs. play; dissolve vs. solve)
B) in a dictionary, it would be listed in a separate entry as its base
C) it can attach to either verbs or nouns (disbelief, dismember, disservice, & disability vs. disconnect, dislike, disregard, & disallow)
D) it indicates an optional semantic distinction, as opposed to a mandatory one (number, tense, case, etc.)
E) it is very unproductive (*disbuild, *disarrive, *disremember, *disconduct, *dis-elect, *disenter, etc.)
F) it indicates a semantic distinction for which there is often no appropriate affix at all (*disgrow, *ungrow, *degrow, *ingrow, *misgrow, etc.)

Can anyone give me a definitive answer?

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ZLVT
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Re: Is "dis-" inflectional or derivational?

Postby ZLVT » Thu Jul 31, 2008 9:52 am UTC

Well, I can't cite any references, well, I could probably find proof on wiki but that's hardly "proof". I'd say derivational because it's a derivative. There is no grammatical case for it, just as "un-" doesn't have a grammatical case attached to it. So, unless he can tell you the case which takes such a prefix, and identify a category of words, al of whom it could be applied to, he's not got a leg to stand on.

Magyarul, we have many words that act like prepositions, only for verbs. When written directly before the verb they modify they are written as one:
el=away
menni=to go
elmenni=to go away

In this case the meaning is clear cut but take a word like törni (to break)
törni = to break
betörni = to break in (lit. break in)
kitörni = to break out (lit. to break out)
letörni = to break off (lit. to break down)
feltörni = to crack [a code] (lit. to break up)
széttörni = to break appart (lit. to break appart)
összetörni = to break/shatter (lit. to break together, as in [motion towards] unity)

Each of these is concidered a separate word, albeit from the same root, so I think we could apply roughly the same logic here.

Anyone know the origins of "dis-"?
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jessicat
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Re: Is "dis-" inflectional or derivational?

Postby jessicat » Thu Jul 31, 2008 12:38 pm UTC

I am positive that we categorized "dis-" as being derivational in my grad level descriptive linguistics class. Beyond that, I have no proof that google can't get you.

Avram
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Re: Is "dis-" inflectional or derivational?

Postby Avram » Thu Jul 31, 2008 11:11 pm UTC

Hmm, aren't there a highly limited number of inflectional morphemes in English (possibly other languages as well)? I would think it would be trivial to create an exhaustive list. Perhaps there is one floating around the net?

Thanks for the input guys!

EDIT: This pdf from the University of Waterloo lists only eight inflectional morphemes (which, it is implied, is an exhaustive list)

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Re: Is "dis-" inflectional or derivational?

Postby Asleep or Wrong » Fri Aug 01, 2008 6:48 pm UTC

do forgive the off-topicality.
ZLVT wrote:Anyone know the origins of "dis-"?

Online Etymology Dictionary says English dis- < Old French des- < Latin dis- < Proto Indo European *dis-, all of which appear to have the meanings “apart” (English has thrown some extra ones onto it).

Looking through my latin dictionary there are a couple of words which seem to me to bear the meanings which the dictionary only gives to English dis-, such as discingo “undress” < cingo “dress” (undoing) and discrucio “torture” < crucio “torture” (emphatic?). May well just be my overactive imagination though :)
edit: L&S says that Latin dis- possesses all of these meanings. Lesson of the day: always check L&S

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ZLVT
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Re: Is "dis-" inflectional or derivational?

Postby ZLVT » Sat Aug 02, 2008 4:43 am UTC

Well then, as dis changes the meaning of the word entirely (in the right circumstance) I'd say it's definitely derivational.
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