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Suppose the following lexeme:

mononess

Consisting of the prefix "mono-" (meaning "one") and suffix "-ness" (meaning "the quality of"), but no stem/root word.

Could this lexeme be a valid word in the English language?

If so, is this construction allowed explicitly or implicitly ("not disallowed" by any rule)? Also, are there examples of any real words that follow this pattern?

  • 1
    In general, a prefix or a suffix needs a root. Neither can attach itself to another of its class: (prefix-suffix) is not a word. Semantic analysis will go bonkers. – Kris Aug 27 '14 at 5:43
  • @Kris That's OK; it's often where semantic analysis starts. – StoneyB Aug 28 '14 at 0:54
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Yes and no.

Yes because it's possible, but no because technically when you want to do this, you are lexicalizing one of them and then adding on the [pre|suf]ix to that base word and so are no longer strictly using a prefix and a suffix together.

So in the case of mononess, you aren't referring to a singularity of quality, rather the quality of being one/singular, so mono- is lexicalized as mono1 to which the suffix -ness is added. I could perhaps understand someone talking about the preness of something (the quality of coming before, or pre- + -ness), but I think I'd definitely need a hyphen to actually mentally decompose the word properly.

In the case of mononess though, it's a bit hypothetical, since the word oneness is already regularly used for the concept. In fact, I reckon most any combination will likely be better served by some other word or phrasing.


1. I'm ignoring the fact that apparently mono is already an adjective mainly because its glosses are monochrome and monophonic which don't apply here (that and I've neither seen nor used it)

  • +1 A real-world example: in the 1980s the St Louis Cardinals had a player, Jose Oquendo, who was an accomplished backup for every position on the field - he even pitched a couple of times. He was often referred to in the media as the Cards' supersub. – StoneyB Aug 28 '14 at 0:53
  • The sub in 'supersub' is a word, a noun, not a prefix at all. What's the problem with 'supersub' then? (Short for substitute, as you already are aware.) Even a great sub-editor will be proud to earn the epithet of a 'supersub,' why not? – Kris Aug 28 '14 at 6:10

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