Looking at the changes in the expression of sentential negation in various languages of Europe and the Mediterranean, this chapter presents empirical generalizations about Jespersen’s cycle. The focus lies on incipient Jespersen’s cycle—that is, the factors contributing to the emergence and generalization of new items that have the potential to successfully become new standard expressions of negation. The chapter rejects a teleological view of Jespersen’s cycle and therefore broadens the empirical base by also looking at languages in which there are linguistic elements that seem to fulfil at least some criteria of successful new negative markers, but which nevertheless never reach the next expected step in the development. It furthermore highlights two topics rarely discussed in the literature on Jespersen’s cycle: the comparative speed of the development in different languages and the fate of the original negators after the end of cycle.
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