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The Jespersen cycles seen from Austronesian

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Abstract

Most work on the so-called ‘Jespersen Cycle’ has been done on the languages of Europe, less on languages of Africa. In this paper the authors look at Austronesian languages, with the aim to determine to what extent Austronesian doubling is compatible with a Jespersen cycle scenario. The properties of the potential Austronesian manifestations of Jespersenian double, triple and even quadruple negation are highlighted, and the role of word order, etyma, emphasis and contact interference are investigated. However difficult it is to discuss a hypothesis about the diachrony of negation on data from 410 languages, most of which do not have a recorded history, still, it is clear that the multiple exponence of negation in Austronesian is in some cases clearly interpretable in terms of the Jespersen cycle hypothesis and in many more cases at least compatible with it, the clearest evidence concerning the partitive negative polysemy, attested in Melanesia.

References

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