Evidence from a correspondence corpus for diachronic change in French indefinites 1450–1715

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In this study the changing distribution of French indefinite forms in different clause types is studied diachronically using a corpus of personal letters written between the Middle French and Classical French periods. The data is interpreted using Haspelmath&#8217;s 1997 semantic map of indefinites, and it is shown that the re-categorisation of <i>quelque </i>as an ordinary positive indefinite is associated with a major change in the use of the hitherto all-purpose indefinite <i>aucun</i>, leading ithe latter to become an n-item in Modern French. This analysis contributes to an account of the evolution of syntactic negation emphasising micro-parametric factors involving the properties of individual lexical items, rather than a macro-parametric change affecting the structural representation of negation.


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