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Indefinites, negation and Jespersen’s Cycle in the history of Low German

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This paper offers a formal account of the diachronic changes in the interaction between indefinites in the scope of negation and the expression of sentential negation in the history of Low German. Different types of negative concord develop at the different historical stages. Parallel to that, the language underwent Jespersen’s Cycle. In addition, I argue that, against common belief, Jespersen’s Cycle is at best indirectly related to the type of interaction between indefinites and negation. Changes in the type of indefinites used in the scope of negation arise due to changes in the lexical properties of the indefinites involved, not as a result of changes in the expression of negation. Conversely, changes in the type of indefinites do not trigger changes in the expression of negation.

Keywords: Jespersen’s Cycle; Middle Low German; Old Saxon; indefinite quantification; negation; negative concord; negative indefinites

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2013-06-28

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