1. unless (conj.)
    mid-15c., earlier onlesse, from (not) on lesse (than) "(not) on a less compelling condition (than);" see less. The first syllable originally on, but the negative connotation and the lack of stress changed it to un-.

  2. à moins que = sauf si.

  3. a menos que means 'unless' in Spanish and Portuguese.

  4. a meno che means 'unless' in Italian.

The above substantiates the same semantic shift in at least 4 languages,
from the prepositional phrase

  • a/à/un ← on (preposition) +
  • less (adverb) +
  • than (comparative preposition)

that semantically shifted to mean 'if not'.

What type from the Typology by Blank (1999) most fits 'unless'?

  • 1
    Wasn't this question asked here before? I feel sure I've seen it previously… – Draconis Aug 5 at 4:27
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    (Though to whoever close-voted, this certainly doesn't seem to be a "language-specific grammar and usage question", seeing as it specifically cites four different languages.) – Draconis Aug 5 at 4:29
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    Possible duplicate of How did 'less than' semantically shift to mean 'if not'? – jknappen Aug 5 at 9:42

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