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Title: The Loss of Negative Concord in Standard English
Subtitle: A Case of Lexical Reanalysis
Written By: Amel Kallel
Description:

The loss of Negative Concord (NC) has long been attributed to external
factors. This study readdresses this issue and provides evidence of 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
the decline of NC was a case of a natural change, preceded by a period of
variation manifested in the obtained S-curves for all the contexts studied.
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
Negative Polarity Items (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. However, this study reveals that the decline is not constant across
time and thus the Constant Rate Hypothesis (Kroch, 1989) does not, in that
respect, fully account for this change. Context behaviour suggests an
alternative principle of linguistic change, the Context Constancy Principle. 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.

Publication Year: 2011
Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
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BibTex: View BibTex record
Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
Linguistic Theories
Syntax
Subject Language(s): English
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Versions:
Format: Hardback
ISBN-13: 9781443827386
Prices: U.K. £ 34.99