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Is there a concrete linguistic reason why im- and ex- are used together in the case of goods but im- and em- in the case of people? Clearly, exigrate and emport sound odd, but are they a result of the evolution of language or do the prefixes have different underlying meanings?

  • As emigrate is spelled with one "e", the prefix is "e-" not "em-". Etymonline explains that the Latin prefix "e-" originated as a variant of "ex-" – sumelic Oct 3 '17 at 17:41
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I know English doesn't normally care much about spelling, but look at the spelling anyway. In immigrate there are two m's while emigrate has only one. Why? Because the first m of immigrate comes from the prefix in- (the n becomes m before m's, p's and b's, and sometimes f's and v's), while the second m comes from the stem migrate.

Emigrate meanwhile is formed with the prefix e-, a variant of ex- that is used in certain contexts, usually where the x would be clumsy (in Latin). The proper form of the word if it used ex- instead of e- would be exmigrate, not exigrate (likewise, export would eport not emport if the inverse were true of it).

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