Is it natural to say "Unparse"? Sounds scratchy, and weird, but I've seen such kind of words...

  • Is it normal to put un before to any word to make it opposite?

  • And if a word can't take un as a prefix, how can we render such word to mean its reverse or reversing, opposite, not, etc., as un normally does?

  • 1
    You need to tell us what meaning you think it has, along with a usage example. "this kind of words" is not specific enough.
    – user3169
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 23:33
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    I've been trying to imagine how I might unparse a sentence, and now I have desperate need of a cocktail. Commented Sep 3, 2016 at 3:00
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    @whitedevil, it's not up to you or me or the dictionary to control what words are valid. All words start from somewhere. If the OP feels that some specialist group needs the word unparse, he or she is free to introduce the term. After that, it's up to the specialist group to decide if the word float or sinks.
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Sep 3, 2016 at 5:38
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    Agree with @Jav even in nonspecialized use, we can imagine a use that no one could authoritatively deem invalid. A: I've parsed the sentence and it means x. B: Well, you better unparse it and start over, because you're wrong! Commented Sep 3, 2016 at 7:55
  • 1
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unparser If we have unparsers, then unparsing probably happens! Commented Sep 3, 2016 at 9:08

2 Answers 2


Affixes, like "un-", can be analysed in terms of how easily it is to form new word using them. Some are generally non-productive, for example "epi-" meaning "on" is a nonproductive prefix: You can't use "epidesk" and expect anyone to know what you are talking about.

On the other hand "anti-" is very productive. If someone is strongly opposed to (for example) fish, that person is anti-fish. It's a weird meaning, but everyone would know what you mean, in context.

On this scale, "un-" is somewhere in the middle. Many verbs adjectives can form a negative using "un-". If the verb describes a process, then the the un-verb means the reversal of that process, and can be used in new coinages. "Unparse" could be understood.

However before making a new word, you should consider the alternatives. Parsing is the process of breaking a sentence down and identifying the role played by each word. The opposite would be "constructing" a sentence. Perhaps this is a better word to use.

[The google chrome grammar and spell checker considers epidesk to be a misspelling, whereas it only suggests non-productive in place of nonproductive, indicating how productive the the prefix "non-" is. It allows antifish without comment.]


With adjectives that denote something changed in some way (especially past participles), un- is productive: you can use it freely to indicate that the change hasn't happened, or has been reversed):

uneaten; unfinished; unpainted; unedited.

With other adjectives, it is fairly common, but not paticularly productive: there is a more or less fixed list that it can be applied to:

unhappy; unwelcome; unenergetic. But not normally *unangry; *ungreen; *undifferent.

With verbs, until the advent of computer interfaces, un- was pretty well limited to verbs of enclosing, attaching, or fastening:

unwrap, undo; unbutton; unlock; unbuckle; unfasten; unload.

But now that computers have made many more actions reversible than are so in the real world, there are many new coinages:

uncheck; undelete; unsubscribe.

Edit to answer your specific question: I can't imagine what you might mean by "unparse", as it parsing not a reversible operation as far as I can see. But if you can find a reasonable meaning for it, use it. "Unparsed" is of course normal, under the first heading of adjectives above.

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