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Language Change and Variation from Old English to Late Modern English

A Festschrift for Minoji Akimoto


Edited By 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


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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