prefix for one-half

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by mathman, Jul 1, 2018.

  1. mathman Valued Senior Member

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    There are at least three widely used prefixes for one-half, semi, hemi, demi. How did it come about that there are three such similar expressions?
     
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  3. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    Semi does not actually mean half, it means partial. But semi and semi are both Greek.

    Demi is French.
     
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  5. mathman Valued Senior Member

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    Semicircle is 1/2 circle, hemisphere is 1/2 sphere. Why different prefixes?
     
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  7. Gawdzilla Sama Valued Senior Member

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    Just to muddy things up a bit:

    Sixty-fourth note

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    In music notation, a sixty-fourth note (American), or hemidemisemiquaver or semidemisemiquaver (British), sometimes called a half-thirty-second note (Burrowes 1874, 42), is a note played for half the duration of a thirty-second note (or demisemiquaver), hence the name. It first occurs in the late 17th century and, apart from rare occurrences of hundred twenty-eighth notes (semihemidemisemiquavers) and two hundred fifty-sixth notes (demisemihemidemisemiquavers), it is the shortest value found in musical notation (Morehen 2001).
     
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  8. Gawdzilla Sama Valued Senior Member

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    Numeral prefix
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    (Redirected from Semi-)

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    "semi-" redirects here. For other uses, see semi (disambiguation).
    Numeral or number prefixes are prefixes derived from numerals or occasionally other numbers. In English and other European languages, they are used to coin numerous series of words, such as unicycle – bicycle – tricycle, dyad – triad – decade, biped – quadruped, September – October – November – December, decimal – hexadecimal, sexagenarian – octogenarian, centipede – millipede, etc. There are two principal systems, taken from Latin and Greek, each with several subsystems; in addition, Sanskrit occupies a marginal position.[1] There is also an international set of metric prefixes, which are used in the metric system, and which for the most part are either distorted from the forms below or not based on actual number words.
     
  9. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    9,770
    Heh.

    "In music, a two hundred fifty-sixth note (or occasionally demisemihemidemisemiquaver) is a note played for 1/256 of the duration of a whole note."
    Googled "shortest note in music".


    And yet, even that is not the limit.

    When I used to digitize music for my Commodore 64, I transcribed some classical sheet music that had a type of note that was defined as "theoretically zero duration". They're always followed by another note, so the effect is kind of like a "pling" rather than a "ding".

    Can't recall what they were called.


    [EDIT] acciaccatura, which is a grace note with a slash through it - means "as fast as possible"

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    Last edited: Jul 3, 2018
  10. Musika Last in Space Valued Senior Member

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    The general rule is that you pair latin prefixes to latin words, and so on for greek and the normanic. So semi comes to bear on a lot of mathematical words (latin contribution), hemi on biology/environment and demi on cultural ... although thats just a general rule ... for instance tele (G) + vision (L)
     
  11. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Not quite. Semi- is Latin, hemi- is Greek and demi- is French. Obviously all from the same orignal root.
     
  12. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    Yes, I looked into that. But 'sphere' and 'circle' are ambiguously Latin and/or Greek, so no reason to choose different prefixes.


    As above, I was hoping the root word examples circle and sphere would be different, but they're not. So why different prefixes?
     
  13. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    7,469
    Sphere is obviously Greek from the use of ph for the f sound.

    Circle is taken from the Latin circulus, the diminutive of circus, acc. my OED. Though indeed this was taken by Latin from similar Greek words.
     
  14. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    It looks like semicircle is a derived idiosyncrasy of English - that it started out in its standard meaning as "partial or approximate circle", and was used so often for an exact half circle that it stuck. (Semi doesn't mean exactly and only half in any other context I can think of off hand).
    So kind of an accident, nothing more significant underneath, by appearances.
     
  15. mathman Valued Senior Member

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    1,543
    Current from Merriman-Webster examples:

    a : precisely half of:
    (1) : forming a bisection of
    • semidiameter

    (2) : being a usually vertically bisected form of (a specified architectural feature)
    • semidome
    b : half in quantity or value : half of or occurring halfway through a specified period of time
    • semiannual

    • semimonthly

    2: to some extent : partly : incompletely
    • semicivilized

    • semi-independent

    • semidry

    3:
    a : partial : incomplete
    • semiconsciousness
    • semidarkness
    b : having some of the characteristics of
    • semiporcelain
    c : quasi-
    • semigovernmental

    • semimonastic
     
  16. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    Yep. I noted this in post 2.
     

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