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The grammaticalization of negative indefinites

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Abstract

This chapter traces the diachronic evolution in Medieval French of two temporal/aspectual n-words of adverbial origin, the markers <i>mais</i> (&#60; Lat. MAGIS &#8216;more, to a greater degree&#8217;) and <i>plus</i> (&#60; Lat. PLUS &#8216;more&#8217;), equivalent to English <i>no more/no longer</i>, <i>anymore/any longer</i>, with a view to addressing two theoretical issues: (i) whether the evolution of indefinites is unidirectional, as claimed by Haspelmath (1997), or rather subject to a &#8220;random diachronic walk&#8221;, as suggested by J&#228;ger (2010); (ii) whether the evolution of the French n-words can be described in terms of a general cyclical development parallel to that of the standard clause negator (commonly known as Jespersen&#8217;s Cycle). It is argued that, like those reported in Hansen (2012), the results of this study support the random walk hypothesis, and weakens the case for a quantifier cycle in French. Moreover, the results of the two studies suggest that functional categories, or paradigms, are pragmatic, rather than linguistic, entities.

References

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