Volume 27, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0176-4225
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9714
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This article investigates the historical emergence of postverbal negation in Welsh. Welsh undergoes a shift from preverbal negation (Middle Welsh ny(t)) to postverbal negation (Present-day Welsh ddim “not” < Middle Welsh dim “at all” < dim “thing, anything”) (Jespersen’s Cycle). In Middle Welsh, ddim occupies a late clausal position, but it later undergoes a syntactic reanalysis which moves it to an earlier immediately post-subject position. It also shifts in status from a weak negative polarity item, appearing in interrogative, conditional and negative clauses, to a purely negative particle. The article argues that, when ddim begins to occupy an earlier clausal position around 1600, it becomes phonologically less salient, and subsequently loses its emphatic sense in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Finally, the article considers the loss of the preverbal negative marker ni(d) in spoken Welsh, and whether this can best be understood as a push chain (ddim makes ni(d) unnecessary) or as a pull chain (ni(d) is phonologically weak and needs reinforcing by ddim). It concludes that push-chain explanations are most probable for the earlier part of the development up to 1750, with pull-chain explanations being more convincing thereafter.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): emphasis , Jespersen’s Cycle , negation , negative polarity , pull chains , push chains and Welsh
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