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r-less-ness1

noun Affixation
Characterized by a lack of the letter r, usually in a place in which an r is expected
 
This word was used to describe characteristics of a variety of spoken language but could easily be applied to other situations, say, someone’s name that didn’t have an r where there typically would be one. The speaker probably chose to use this because it is a pithy way of saying “the fact that there aren’t r’s where there usually are,” and also because in class, we had just been talking about word formation, and perhaps they were intentionally employing some of the methods we had discussed.
Etymology : -less is a word-forming element that means “lacking” which can be traced back to Proto-Germanic lausaz meaning roughly the same thing, although also “loose, free.” In Old English -leas took that definition and made it modify the noun to which it was attached, so the definition became “free from” instead of just “free.” -ness also comes from Proto-Germanic, this time as in-assu-. It is a word-forming element that denotes quality or state of an action and has cognates with this meaning in many other languages.
Source : “This r-less-ness used to be considered posh in the Boston area after it came over with British English, but now it’s considered ‘lower-class.’” -Prof. Kemmer, in class, September 2016
Last modified: 4 December 2016


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