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The unstabilty of the English language on the BBC Options
PlanetOfGiants
Posted: Wednesday, February 24, 2021 12:39:59 AM

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Joined: 7/4/2014
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Heard on the BBC (Radio) World Service this morning: unstability

Entered into TFD - response was:

unstability
Word not found in the Dictionary and Encyclopedia.
Did you mean:

instability

Lord Reith would have turned in his grave if he heard this non-word on the service he said should ... educate ... (the people)
thar
Posted: Wednesday, February 24, 2021 2:11:35 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 7/8/2010
Posts: 24,218
Neurons: 98,094
Not entirely unique apparently

Quote:
English Edit
Noun Edit
unstability (countable and uncountable, plural unstabilities)

(rare) Instability.
Synonyms Edit
instability (much more common)


Although whether that has any pedigree or is just that several people make the same mistake, I don't know.


Why English has chosen un- for the adjective and in- for the noun I don't know
Unstable, unable
Instability, inability
Because it is inconsistent
Incapable, incapability

The modern French, and Latin, is all in-
stabilité, instabilité, stable, instable
Stabilitas, instabilitas, stabilis, instabilis

Whether Old French or Norman French was different...?

English uses un- for unstable because that is how you negate adjectives. Most of the time.
But not nouns. That is instability.

So the question could be why don't people say instable?

Or maybe you could even argue for a semantic difference between
Unstability( the state of being unstable)
Instability (the lack of a state of being stable)
And
Non-stability (the state of not being stable.)
d'oh! Whistle
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