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Jespersen cycles in the Mayan, Quechuan and Maipurean languages*

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Abstract

This study looks for evidence for the Jespersen Cycle, which is typically the development from one single negator to another one via a strengthening stage in which both are present, in the Mayan, Quechuan and Maipurean languages. For Mayan and Quechuan languages the evidence is solid, and what is particularly interesting is that the strengthening would seem to have happened twice and that in both families an irrealis marker served to make the negation emphatic. In Maipurean languages the most important development is the extension of a prenominal privative marker (‘without’) to clausal negation, which if it shows up preverbally to a verb that already has postverbal negation, would show us a Jespersen Cycle which, untypically, operates from right to left.

References

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