root: و-ص-ل / adjective, active participle of form VIII / definition: attached, adjoining
So you think you know “لا”? Well, of course you do. It’s one of the first words we all learnt. But did you know that the Arabic “no” can also be used in some cases as an attached prefix? Hold onto your notepads, it’s time for more grammar…
We’re used to seeing لا as an isolated particle used for negation. But this two-letter unit sometimes likes to cosy up (ooh لا لا) and attach itself to other words.
Sorry, I had to allow myself at least one pun on this post.
لا can act as an attached prefix on adjectives and abstract nouns, where it flips the meaning of the word. Arabic words with the attached لا often translate into English as ones carrying prefixes such as in- or un-, or the -less suffix.
Here’s some examples with adjectives:
مُتَناهٍ = finite
لامُتَناهٍ = infinite
سِلْكي = wire (adj.)
لاسِلْكي = wireless
فَقْري = vertebrate
لافَقْري = invertebrate
And here’s some examples with abstract nouns:
مُساواة = equality
لامُساواة = inequality
مَسْؤُوليّة = responsibility
لامَسْؤُوليّة = irresponsibility
تَناظُر = symmetry
لاتَناظُر = asymmetry
When لا is attached to a word, the two components behave as a single unit: i.e. if you want to add the definite الـ prefix to one of these words, the definite article has to come at the very beginning (before the لا).
Take a look at the examples below…
لا تُساعِد القوانين الجديدة على تَقليص فَجْوة اللامُساواة
the new laws do not help to minimise the inequality gap
يُعاني السُّكّان المَدَنيّون من تأثيرات الصَّيد اللاقانوني في الإقليم
the civilian population suffer from the effects of illegal hunting in the region
That’s all for this post, but if you want to check out more examples of the attached لا prefix in use, flip through to pages 999-1000 of the Hans Wehr dictionary and enjoy!
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