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date: 03 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

A new post-verbal negative marker ‘not’ emerges in early English through a process of grammaticalization. The grammaticalization of new sentential scope negative markers often results from cyclic change, as described by Jespersen (1917), and well attested crosslinguistically. In early English, this change involves 3 stages. In the first stage negation is marked by a pre-verbal particle ne. In the second stage, negation is bipartite: the pre-verbal particle ne is supplemented by the word not postverbally. In the third stage, the pre-verbal particle ne disappears, leaving post-verbal not as the sole marker of sentential negation. I argue that many previous accounts of this change do not adequately model the distribution of each stage within data from the Penn-Helsinki Parsed Corpus of Middle English. Quantitative analysis of these corpus data indicate that we should distinguish two forms of ne during the change. Using recent Minimalist syntactic frameworks, a suitable distinction is made in terms of morphosyntactic features. Therefore, I argue that competition between two morphosyntactically distinct forms of ne plays a central role in the grammaticalization of the sentential negative not in English.

Keywords: Cyclic change, negation, corpus/corpora, syntactic change, Middle English, grammaticalization, Jespersen Cycle, Minimalism, Penn-Helsinki Parsed Corpus, linguistics

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