1

English has prefixes to denote opposition as well as absence.

For example:

  • 'gnostic' vs 'agnostic' (having knowledge vs absence of knowledge)
  • 'social' vs 'asocial' vs 'anti social' (being social, not being social, being against society)

However there is a subtle difference between the absence of something and being neutral towards it. For example let;s say that I want to indicate that I am a little bit social, but not too social.

I am not 'asocial' because it's false that I am not social. But I am also not fully social. Rather I am something in the middle.

The above is just an example, it doesn't have to be the word 'social' I just want to know whether English has a prefix to explicitly convey the subtility of neutrality.

  • For any contrast (including 'un-', 'ab-', etc.) that establishes a gradation between poles, there may be a zero point in the middle, or two separate zeroes at each opposing end, so prefixes like 'sub-' or 'semi-' will be ambiguous. The best way to express the subtlety of neutrality is simply to not mention the quality at all. – AmI Nov 20 '18 at 21:49
  • The difficulty here is the way you've worded your premise, as "something in the middle" doesn't necessarily equate to "neutral". The former would be covered by semi-, but I suspect neutrality is too nuanced and context-dependent to have given rise to a specific prefix. – Chappo Nov 20 '18 at 22:00
  • Not everything can be expressed well in one word. Here's a related question with, in my opinion, fairly unsatisfactory answers: Is there a suffix like “phile” or “phobe” for don't care? – sumelic Nov 21 '18 at 1:26

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.