An asymmetric view on stage II in Jespersen’s cycle in the West Germanic languages

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Irrespective of the directionality they postulate for the loss of the preverbal marker, most approaches to Jespersen’s cycle assume a “symmetric” bipartite negation in stage II, in which both the old and the new marker participate in the expression of negation, be it as parts of one discontinuous construction, or be it because one is licensed by the other in some way. The current paper discusses problems with this from a perspective of the West Germanic languages and argues that the two markers must be functionally differentiated at stage II in these languages and therefore proposes an “asymmetric” interpretation of stage II. Rather than assuming that both parts of the bipartite construction express negation, it is argued that the preverbal marker undergoes a morphosyntactic change by which it is reanalysed as the lexicalisation of the head of a high polarity projection.


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