Volume 10, Issue 3
  • ISSN 2210-2116
  • E-ISSN: 2210-2124
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The purpose of this paper is to provide quantitative substantiation for the role of bridging context in grammatical change. Bridging contexts are assumed to be environments compatible with the new function that an item is acquiring. The evolving item would therefore be predicted to occur in bridging contexts at significant rates just before the change. To test this prediction, the well-known evolution of Negative Polarity Items into an n-word is analysed, using the well-documented case of the in the history of French. Charting its course in a monogeneric corpus of narrative legal material, we find that the item occurs in strong negative polarity environments at rates of over 50% before it is found in a majority of n-word uses. This supports the view that bridging contexts are instrumental to change, and that they involve quantitative conditions.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): bridging contexts; French; language change; n-words; negation; NPIs
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