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Conference Information

Full Title: Workshop on Negation: Meillet’s Spiral (Jespersen’s Cycle) and Beyond

Location: Split, Croatia
Start Date: 18-Sep-2013 - 21-Sep-2013
Contact: Frens Vossen
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting Description: Workshop on Negation: Meillet’s Spiral (Jespersen’s Cycle) and Beyond
Split 2013, 46th Annual Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea

100 years ago, Antoine Meillet described the diachrony of clausal negation of the type ne ... pas in terms of a ‘spiral’, antedating Jespersen (1917)’s account of the same phenomenon and also Dahl (1979)’s coining of the term ‘Jespersen cycle’, which at least for this centennial anniversary workshop should cede place for the term ‘Meillet’s spiral’. Despite the fact that the last 10 to 15 years have seen a strong upsurge of interest in the study of the diachrony of negation (e.g. van der Auwera 2009), in a variety of frameworks, many issues remain unsolved. These include the following:

- What are the conditions that favor the spiral development of negation? Why is it the case, for instance, that the Germanic languages or - to step outside outside of Europe - the Bantu languages show the Meillet spiral and that Slavic or Altaic languages do not?

- Attested origins of new (second) negatives are partitives/mimimizers/emphasizers, irrealis markers, answer particles, loanwords, and durative markers. Doubling is also attested. What other elements in languages are there that can develop into a real negation marker and what is their grammaticalization path?

- In recent work - though not in the classical accounts of Meillet and Jespersen - the Meillet spiral is strongly associated with particular word order constellations. Is word order change constitutive of the process, of a subtype of the process or is it just an interfering process?

- In recent work - though, again, not in the classical accounts of Meillet and Jespersen - the Meillet spiral has also been described as being responsible for the appearance of negative pronouns (e.g. French personne ‘nobody’) out of negatively polar pronouns (with French personne earlier meaning ‘anybody’), via a negative concord stage (ne personne ‘not nobody’). What exactly is the relation between the double exponence seen in ne ... pas ‘not’ and that seen in ne ... personne ‘nobody’?

- Whereas many languages use morphologically non-negative indefinites in negation, e.g. Eng. anybody, others use morphologically negative indefinites formed by means of univerbation with a negative element, be it a negator or a negative scalar focus marker, e.g. Dutch and German niemand (ne ‘not’ + iemand ‘someone’) or Hungarian senki (sem ‘not even’ + ki ‘who’). This, just like negative concord, seems to be a phenomenon areally restricted to Europe and to languages influenced by negative concord languages. What are the conditions favoring this univerbation? Which negative elements can be easily attracted by indefinite pronouns or which indefinites easily attract negative elements? Focus and word order as well as formal properties of the negative element may play a role.

- What is the role of language contact in starting a Meillet spiral? If language contact is important, why do languages borrow negatives or negative expressions? Are focus and emphasis taking part in the transmission? Unrelated Southern Amerindian languages present common elements in their negative systems. If this is due to contact, how and why were they transferred?

The workshop invites answers to these and related questions and particularly welcomes studies on (groups of) languages that have not hitherto been described with reference to the Meillet spiral / Jespersen cycle literature.
Linguistic Subfield: Typology
LL Issue: 23.4025

This is a session of the following meeting:
46th Annual Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea

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