In Arithide, whether classical or modern, the lexeme av is used almost universally in negation, and surfaces in various forms: standalone particle, prefix and suffix. While dialects may differ as to the exact quality of the vowel—some have -e-, others -o-, others a schwa, and still others a variable vowel identical to the previous or next vowel, depending on whether the negation is prefixal or suffixal—the consonant is in all cases the voiced labiodental fricative.
In Classical Arithide, av was a flexible suffix, attaching not only to verbs, but also to nouns in negation, expressing by its mere position the negation of different elements in a sentence. Thus, for example, the sentence izō nosum surit "(He) stole the money yesterday" has the following negations:
- Izō nosum suritav.
money.ACC yesterday.LOC steal.PAST.NEG
Regular verbal negation. This sentence is almost as ambiguous as the English, except that it is unambiguous that the money was involved, whereas in English appropriate emphasis could cast doubt even on that.
- Izō nosum avsurit.
money.ACC yesterday.LOC NEG.steal.PAST
Lexical verbal negation. This sentence translates to English "(He) didn't steal the money yesterday", but unlike the English, which could plausibly be negating anything from the stealing to what was stolen to when it was stolen, in the Arithide the sentence's semantic scope is significantly narrower: it only means that what was done with the money was not stealing; he could have borrowed the money, put it in a safe, or burnt it. In this case the adverb nosum "yesterday" functions differently from the English, and would be interpreted to mean, loosely, "yesterday's money".
- Avizō nosum surit.
NEG.money.ACC yesterday.LOC steal.PAST
Nominal (object) negation. I.e. "It wasn't the money that (he) stole yesterday." Something else was stolen yesterday, by him. Perhaps he did steal the money as well, but that wasn't done yesterday, and whether he did or not is not important. The emphasis here is on what was stolen yesterday, and that it wasn't the money; see also (5).
- Avna izō nosum surit.
NEG.pron-3p-sg money.ACC yesterday.LOC steal.PAST
Nominal (subject) negation. "It wasn't (him) who stole the money yesterday." Someone else stole the money yesterday. The additional pronoun is necessary here for disambiguation; other sentences omit the pronoun (Classical Arithide is pro-drop; see Classical Arithide grammar).
- Izō avnosum surit.
money.ACC NEG.yesterday.LOC steal.PAST
Adverbial negation. "It wasn't yesterday that (he) stole the money." He did indeed steal the money, but it wasn't yesterday; he had stolen it some time else, perhaps minutes ago. In contrast to (3), this construction is generally interpreted to mean that he did not steal anything else, but again the fact is not usually important.
Av in Modern Arithide is purely a verbal affix, the language having lost much inflection and consequently the ability to negate nouns as in the classical tongue. As a result, sentence negation of types 3, 4 and 5 above have largely been replaced with periphrastic constructions, using the copula hē whose remit has been considerably expanded, not unlike the English "It wasn't him who...", "It wasn't the money that..." etc. For comparison, here are the equivalent sentences in Modern Arithide:
- Izoi eg ema soriev.
money ACC yesterday steal.PAST.NEG
- Izoi eg ema avsorie.
money ACC yesterday NEG.steal.PAST
- Ema soriostou izoi hev.
yesterday steal.PASSIVE.SUBST.TOP money be.NEG
- Izoi eg sorie daidau nos hev.
money ACC steal.PAST hand.TOP he be.NEG
- Izoi eg sorie nevou ema hev.
money ACC steal.PAST time.TOP yesterday be