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Adventures in English Syntax

By Robert Freidin

Adventures in English Syntax "this book will enrich your understanding of English in ways that will make you a more effective user of the language."

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Modality Across Syntactic Categories

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Modality Across Syntactic Categories "Chapters in the book demonstrate that modality involves many more syntactic categories and levels of syntactic structure than traditionally assumed."

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Dissertation Information

Title: The Lexical Reanalysis of N-words and the Loss of Negative Concord in Standard English Add Dissertation
Author: Amel Kallel Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Reading, Linguistics
Completed in: 2005
Linguistic Subfield(s): Historical Linguistics; Linguistic Theories; Sociolinguistics; Syntax;
Subject Language(s): English
Director(s): Anthony Kroch
Susan Pintzuk
Anthony Warner
Richard Ingham

Abstract: The Loss of Negative Concord (NC) has long been attributed to external
factors. This study re-addresses 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 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. This study reveals that the decline takes place at the
same rate in all observed contexts. 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 [-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.