Date: [this is an updated old posting, previous to LSEG4 edition]
Q6: " ... what it the rule concerning prefixes that turn words into their opposites? When do I use (un-) unpleasant, (in-) incapable, (im-) impossible, (a-) atheist, and (non-) nonbeliever?"
From H B - Holland

A6. Although the above question appears to be simple, it requires answers to specific parts of it, as follows:

"What it the rule concerning prefixes that turn words into their opposites?"

The meaning of the words is studied by a grammatical branch named "Semantics". Unfortunately, semantic topics are way too complex to present in one, beginner-level grammar book; therefore, they are presented/exemplified only marginally and incidentally in Logically Structured English Grammar 4. However, in LSEG4 there are subchapters/sections dedicated to the most common methods used to form each morphologic element--including its antonyms.

Now, one common method of forming new, custom-built morphologic elements (using derivation) is named "affixation": this is, using prefixes and suffixes added to a "root-word". This affixation process was done a long time ago for most words, though it still continues today using general-meaning prefixes and suffixes. In this last instance, the result is custom-built morphologic elements.

English was formed as a mixture of many languages: the original Beaker-culture basis/fundament, plus Latin, Greek, German, Scandinavian, French, Hebrew, Spanish, Italian, Russian, etc. That particular aspect has generated a bit of a chaos in structuring the English morphologic elements based on strict grammatical rules.

For example, some morphologic elements (adjectives, nouns, adverbs) take particular and specific sets of prefixes/suffixes. LSEG4 presents (partially) the most frequent sets of prefixes/suffixes used to form the morphologic elements (including the most frequent instances of opposite/negative meanings). In addition, LSEG4 presents a few sets of common, general-meaning prefixes used to form new, custom-built morphologic elements.

A6.2 "When do I use (un-) unpleasant, (in-) incapable, (im-) impossible, (a-) atheist, and (non-) nonbeliever?"

RED LEAF LFirst of all, words are grouped into:

A. well known words, and we rely on dictionaries to use them appropriately;
B. custom words/(equivalent morphologic elements), and we need to exercise great caution when forming/using them.

The set of words submitted for analysis are all adjectives, therefore they take adjective-specific sets of prefixes. Particular to adjectives is, some prefixes and suffixes are indeed used to form opposite/negative meanings. For example, the opposite/negative meaning prefix:

a. (un-) is of German origin, and it is used a lot (uncommon, unknown, untold);
b. (in-) is of Latin origin, also quite frequent (inadequate, inadmissible, inadvisable);
c. (im-) is of Latin origin (immaterial, immature, immobile, impatient);
d. (a-) is of Latin origin when it is used with its opposite/negative meaning (amoral, aphonic, apolitical), and of German origin in all other instances (aflame, ablaze, aglow, ahead, alike)
e. (non-) is of Latin origin. From the list of prefixes submitted, (non-) is the only general-meaning prefix that may be used (safely) to form custom negative-meaning adjectives. Note that in most instances (non-) is tied to the root-word using a hyphen/dash (non-conformist, non-aromatic, non-Catholic) particularly because it is a general-meaning prefix.

In LSEG4 the readers can discover a few more (recommended) general-meaning prefixes: anti-; ex-; extra-; retro-; super-; ultra-; etc.

Using one known prefixed word/adjective for another is a tough choice (amoral / immoral), and please be aware that each version/form may have elusive, particular or additional meanings. Our recommendation is, use a few good dictionaries issued in USA, and in UK--sometimes there are significant semantic differences between the two; when this happens, the USA ones appear to be far more reliable on technical/scientific aspects.

Forming new adjectives using general meaning prefixes is a practice we would like to see discouraged. However, if you do that, please mark your new adjectives appropriately using a hyphen/dash [of course, without colors, italics, or bold type]: ex-military, contra-nature, non-human, etc.

Please be aware the addition of prefixes/suffixes may come, sometimes, with orthographical changes to the root-word, required by the phonetic-agreement rules.

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