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Language Change and Variation from Old English to Late Modern English

A Festschrift for Minoji Akimoto

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Merja Kytö, John Scahill and Harumi Tanabe

This collection reflects Minoji Akimoto’s concern with studies of change in English that are theoretically-informed, but founded on substantial bodies of data. Some of the contributors focus on individual texts and text-types, among them literature and journalism, others on specific periods, from Old English to the nineteenth century, but the majority trace a linguistic process – such as negation, passivisation, complementation or grammaticalisation – through the history of English. While several papers take a fresh look at manuscript evidence, the harnessing of wideranging electronic corpora is a recurring feature methodologically. The linguistic fields treated include word semantics, stylistics, orthography, word-order, pragmatics and lexicography. The volume also contains a bibliography of Professor Akimoto’s writings and an index of linguistic terms.

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ELLY VAN GELDEREN Negative Concord and the Negative Cycle in the History of English 35

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ELLY VAN GELDEREN Negative Concord and the Negative Cycle in the History of English The history of English negation has been well-described (e.g. Hein 1890; Jespersen 1917; Jack 1978; Frisch 1997; van Kemenade 2000; Iyeiri 2005; Ingham 2007). As in many other languages, changes involving negatives are cyclical: a (negative) indefinite is used to renew a weakened negative particle. In this paper, I will mainly focus on some, less explored, aspects of the cycle in relation to Negative Concord. I will not do any kind of review of the vast literature. In section one, I describe the basic facts of the negative cycle and provide the theoretical background used. I provide an account of the grammaticalization of negatives in terms of Economy Principles and features. In section two, the cyclical changes from using an in- definite with a negative to negative concord and back are given. In section three, I discuss two triggers for the change. Section four is a conclusion. 1. The negative cycle in English and feature economy In this section, I sketch the changes involved in what is known as the Negative Cycle and the theoretical background. 1.1. Ne to zero; na wiht to not As is well-known, the development of negatives between Old and Modern English can be represented as in (1): Elly van Gelderen 36 (1) a. no/n(e) eOE b. n(e) (na wiht/not) OE, especially Southern c. (ne) not ME, especially Southern d. not LME e. n’t ModE In the earliest English we...

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