The loss of NC has long been attributed to external factors. This study
readdresses this issue and provides evidence for the failure of certain
external factors to account for the observed decline and ultimate
disappearance of NC in Standard English. A detailed study of negation in
Late Middle and Early Modern English reveals that the process of decline of
NC was a case of a natural change, preceded by a period of variation.
Variation existed not only on the level of the speech community as a whole
but also within individual speakers (contra Lightfoot 1991). A close study
of n-indefinites in negative contexts and their ultimate replacement with
NPIs in a number of grammatical environments shows that the decline of NC
follows the same pattern across contexts in a form of PARALLEL CURVATURE,
which indicates that the loss of NC is a natural process. This study
reveals that the decline takes place at the same rate in all observed
contexts, something consistent with Kroch’s Constant Rate Effect. A CONTEXT
CONSTANCY EFFECT is obtained across all contexts indicating that the loss
of NC is triggered by a change in a single underlying parameter setting.
Accordingly, a theory-internal explanation is suggested. N-words underwent
a lexical reanalysis whereby they acquired a new grammatical feature [+Neg]
and were thus reinterpreted as negative quantifiers, rather than NPIs. This
lexical reanalysis was triggered by the ambiguous status of n-words between
[±Neg] and thus between single and double negative meanings. This change is
treated as a case of parameter resetting as this lexical reanalysis
affected a whole set of lexical items and can thus economically account for
the different observed surface changes.