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The History of Negation in the Languages of Europe and the MediterraneanVolume I Case Studies$
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David Willis, Christopher Lucas, and Anne Breitbarth

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199602537

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199602537.001.0001

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Comparing diachronies of negation

Comparing diachronies of negation

(p.1) 1 Comparing diachronies of negation
The History of Negation in the Languages of Europe and the Mediterranean

David Willis

Christopher Lucas

Anne Breitbarth

Oxford University Press

This chapter provides an overview of the typical pathways for the development of negation, focusing on the languages of Europe and the Mediterranean. It considers the frequency and causes of Jespersen’s cycle, the emergence of new markers of negation from emphatic constructions that eventually come to replace the original marker of negation. It looks at the sources of new negative markers, from minimizers (‘not a bit’) and generalizers (‘not in any possible way’) and at the historical progress of the negative cycle that has occurred in almost every language in western Europe, showing considerable differences in detail despite overall commonality. The chapter also considers how expression of negative indefinites (e.g. ‘nothing, nowhere’) changes over time, including changes in negative concord systems. Common developments here include, for instance, the tendency for items to become more ‘negative’ (the quantifier cycle) and for free-choice items (‘anything you like’) to spread into negative contexts.

Keywords:   negation, Jespersen’s cycle, negative indefinites, n-words, negative polarity items (NPIs), negative concord, free-choice items

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