Volume 17, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1566-5852
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9854
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes


Former studies have attributed little attention to the historical factors surrounding the development of counterfactual meanings in , though some refer to evidence of expletive negation found in proximatives crosslinguistically. In this study, the historical development of the adverb will be considered in investigating more recent data from Late Modern English, in which an overwhelming number of counterfactual uses appear with a complement referring to undesirable events, some even hyperbolic in nature. It is hypothesised that the presence of intersubjectivity contributed significantly to the development of counterfactual meanings, in focusing attention on the aversion of, rather than the proximity to, the event described in the complement. Intersubjectivity also explains the evidence of expletive negation in proximatives in other languages though this is not attested in the history of English .


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. BNC The British National Corpus. Online version [BYU-BNC]. corpus.byu.edu/bnc/
    [Google Scholar]
  2. COCA The Corpus of Contemporary American English, 450 million words, 1990–present. Compiled by Mark Davies . corpus.byu.edu/coca/
    [Google Scholar]
  3. CLMET(EV) The Corpus of Late Modern English Texts (Extended Version). Compiled by Hendrik de Smet . https://perswww.kuleuven.be/~u0044428/clmet.htm
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Helsinki Corpus
    : Helsinki Corpus of English Texts, Diachronic Part. Compiled by Matti Rissanen , Merja Kytö , Leena Kahlas-Tarkka , Matti Kilipiö , Saara Nevanlinna , Irma Taavitsainen , Terttu Nevalainen , Helena Raumolin-Brunberg . Available from The Oxford text Archive. ICAME International Computer Archive of Modern and Medieval English. icame.uib.no/
    [Google Scholar]
  5. OED Oxford English Dictionary 2002 Third edn. (online). athens.oed.com
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Akatsuka, Noriko McCawley and Susan Strauss
    2000 “Counterfactual Reasoning and Desirability”. In Elizabeth Couper-Kuhlen and Bernd Kortmann (eds), Cause – Condition – Concession – Contrast: Cognitive and Discourse Perspectives, 205–34. Berlin: Mouton de Guyter. doi: 10.1515/9783110219043.2.205
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110219043.2.205 [Google Scholar]
  7. Amaral, Patrícia
    2007The Meaning of Approximative Adverbs: Evidence from European Portuguese. PhD thesis. Ohio State University.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Anscombre, Jean-Claude and Oswald Ducrot
    1983L’Argumentation dans la Langue. Bruxelles: Pierre Mardaga.
    [Google Scholar]
  9. Atlas, Jay D
    1984 “Comparative Adjectives and Adverbials of Degree: An Introduction to Radically Radical Pragmatics”. Linguistics and Philosophy7: 347–77. doi: 10.1007/BF00631072
    https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00631072 [Google Scholar]
  10. 2005Logic, Meaning, and Conversation. New York: Oxford University Press. doi: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195133004.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195133004.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  11. Beeching, Kate , Liesbeth Degand , Ulrich Detges , Elizabeth C. Traugott and Richard Waltereit
    2009  Summary of the Workshop on Meaning in Diachrony at the Conference on Meaning in Interaction . April. University of the West of England, Bristol.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Biq, Yung-O
    1989 “Metalinguistic Negation in Mandarin”. Journal of Chinese Linguistics17 (1): 75–94.
    [Google Scholar]
  13. Boucher, Jerry and Charles E. Osgood
    1969 “The Pollyanna Hypothesis”. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior8 (1): 1–8. doi: 10.1016/S0022‑5371(69)80002‑2
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0022-5371(69)80002-2 [Google Scholar]
  14. Brems, Lieselotte , Lobke Ghesquière and Freek Van de Velde
    2012 “Introduction: Intersections of Intersubjectivity”. English Text Construction5 (1): 1–6. doi: 10.1075/etc.5.1.01int
    https://doi.org/10.1075/etc.5.1.01int [Google Scholar]
  15. Brinton, Laurel J. and Elizabeth Closs Traugott
    2005Lexicalization and Language Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511615962
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511615962 [Google Scholar]
  16. Ghesquière, Lobke , Lieselotte Brems and Freek Van de Velde
    2012 “Intersubjectivity and Intersubjectification”. English Text Construction5 (1): 128–52. doi: 10.1075/etc.5.1.07ghe
    https://doi.org/10.1075/etc.5.1.07ghe [Google Scholar]
  17. Heine, Bemd
    1994 “On the Genesis of Aspect in African Languages: The Proximative”. Proceedings of the Berkeley Linguistics Society 20: 35–46.
    [Google Scholar]
  18. Heine, Bernd
    2002 “On the Role of Context in Grammaticalization”. In Ilse Wischer and Gabriele Diewald (eds), New Reflections on Grammaticalization, 83–101. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. doi: 10.1075/tsl.49.08hei
    https://doi.org/10.1075/tsl.49.08hei [Google Scholar]
  19. Heine, Bernd and Tania Kuteva
    2002World Lexicon of Grammaticalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511613463
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511613463 [Google Scholar]
  20. Hitzeman, Janet
    1992 “The Selectional Properties and Entailments of ‘almost’”. Proceedings of the Chicago Linguistic Society 28: 225–38.
    [Google Scholar]
  21. Horn, Laurence R
    1984 “Towards a New Taxonomy for Pragmatic Inference: Q-based and R-based Implicature”. In Deborah Schiffrin (ed.), Meaning, Form and Use in Context: Linguistic Applications, 11–42. (GURT 84.) Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. 1989A Natural History of Negation. Chicago: Chicago University Press. (2001 edition published by CSLI, Stanford.)
    [Google Scholar]
  23. 2002 “Assertoric Inertia and NPI Licensing”. Proceedings of the Chicago Linguistic Society38 (3), Part II (The Panels), 55–82.
    [Google Scholar]
  24. 2011 “ Almost Forever”. In Etsuyo Yuasa , Tista Bagchi and Katherine Beals (eds), Pragmatics and Autolexical Grammar: In Honor of Jerry Sadock, 2–21. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. doi: 10.1075/la.176.01hor
    https://doi.org/10.1075/la.176.01hor [Google Scholar]
  25. Jayez, Jacques and Lucia Tovena
    2008 “ Presque and Almost: How Argumentation Derives from Comparative Meaning”. In O. Bonami and P. Cabredo Hoffher (eds), Empirical Issues in Syntax and Semantics7, 217–39. Available online at: www.cssp.cnrs.fr/eiss7/jayez-tovena-eiss7.pdf.
    [Google Scholar]
  26. Kuteva, Tania
    1998 “On Identifying an Evasive Gram: Action Narrowly Averted”. Studies in Language22 (1): 113–60. doi: 10.1075/sl.22.1.05kut
    https://doi.org/10.1075/sl.22.1.05kut [Google Scholar]
  27. 2001Auxiliation: An Enquiry in to the Nature of Grammaticalization. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  28. Kuteva, Tania , Bas Aarts , Geri Popova and Anvita Abbi
    . Forthcoming. “The Grammar of ‘counter-to-fact’”.
    [Google Scholar]
  29. Kytö, Merja and Suzanne Romaine
    2005 “We Had Like to Have Been Killed By Thunder and Lightning. The Semantic and Pragmatic History of a Construction that Like to Disappeared”. Journal of Historical Pragmatics6 (1): 1–35. doi: 10.1075/jhp.6.1.02kyt
    https://doi.org/10.1075/jhp.6.1.02kyt [Google Scholar]
  30. Levinson, Stephen C
    2000Presumptive Meanings: The Theory of Generalized Conversational Implicature. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  31. Li, Charles N
    1976 “A Functional Explanation for an Unexpected Case of Ambiguity (S or ~S)”. In A.M. Devine and Laurence D. Stephens (eds), Linguistic Studies Offered to Joseph Greenberg, Vol. 3, 527–35. Saratoga, CA: Anma Libri & Co.
    [Google Scholar]
  32. Narrog, Heiko
    2012 “Modality and Speech-act Orientation”. In Johan van der Auwera and Jan Nuyts (eds), Grammaticalization and (Inter)subjectification, 21–36. Brussels: Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie van Belgie voor Wetenschappen en Kunsten.
    [Google Scholar]
  33. Nuyts, Jan
    2012 “Notions of (Inter)subjectivity”. English Text Construction5 (1): 53–76. doi: 10.1075/etc.5.1.04nuy
    https://doi.org/10.1075/etc.5.1.04nuy [Google Scholar]
  34. Panther, Klaus-Uwe and Linda Thornburg
    1999 “The Potentiality for Actuality Metonymy in English and Hungarian”. In Klaus-Uwe Panther and Günther Radden (eds), Metonymy in Language and Thought, 333–57. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. doi: 10.1075/hcp.4.19pan
    https://doi.org/10.1075/hcp.4.19pan [Google Scholar]
  35. Peyraube, Alain
    1979 “ Les ‘approximatifs’ Chinoise: Chàbuduō, jīhū, chàyidiǎnr ”. Cahiers de Linguistique Asie Orientale6 (1): 49–62. doi: 10.3406/clao.1979.1061
    https://doi.org/10.3406/clao.1979.1061 [Google Scholar]
  36. Pons Bordería , Salvador and Scott Schwenter
    2005 “Polar Meaning and ‘Expletive’ Negation in Approximative Adverbs. Spanish por poco (no) ”. Journal of Historical Pragmatics6 (2): 262–82. doi: 10.1075/jhp.6.2.06pon
    https://doi.org/10.1075/jhp.6.2.06pon [Google Scholar]
  37. Portner, Paul
    2009Modality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  38. Sadock, Jerrold M
    1981 “ Almost ”. In Peter Cole (ed.), Radical Pragmatics, 257–71. New York: Academic Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  39. Sevi, Aldo
    1998A Semantics for Almost and Barely. Masters dissertation. Tel Aviv University.
    [Google Scholar]
  40. Schwenter, Scott
    2002 “Discourse Context and Polysemy: Spanish casi”. In Caroline Wiltshire and Joaquim Camps (eds), Romance Philology and Variation: Selected Papers from the 30th Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages, 161–75. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. doi: 10.1075/cilt.217.13sch
    https://doi.org/10.1075/cilt.217.13sch [Google Scholar]
  41. Traugott, Elizabeth Closs
    1989 “On the Rise of Epistemic Meanings in English”. Language65 (1): 31–55. doi: 10.2307/414841
    https://doi.org/10.2307/414841 [Google Scholar]
  42. 2010 “Revisiting Subjectification and Intersubjectification”. In Kristin Davidse , Lieven Vandelanotte and Hubert Cuykens (eds), Subjectification, Intersubjectification, and Grammaticalization, 29–70. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. doi: 10.1515/9783110226102.1.29
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110226102.1.29 [Google Scholar]
  43. Traugott, Elizabeth
    2012 “Intersubjectification and Clause Periphery”. English Text Construction5 (1): 7–28. doi: 10.1075/etc.5.1.02trau
    https://doi.org/10.1075/etc.5.1.02trau [Google Scholar]
  44. Visconti, Jacqueline
    2013 “Facets of Subjectification”. Language Sciences36 (1): 7–17. doi: 10.1016/j.langsci.2012.03.016
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.langsci.2012.03.016 [Google Scholar]
  45. Wierzbicka, Anna
    1986 “Precision in Vagueness”. Journal of Pragmatics10 (5): 597–614. doi: 10.1016/0378‑2166(86)90016‑0
    https://doi.org/10.1016/0378-2166(86)90016-0 [Google Scholar]
  46. Zhu, De Xi
    1959 “Shūo chàyīdiǎn (‘On chàyīdiǎn’)”. Zhōngguó Yǔwén87: 435.
    [Google Scholar]
  47. Ziegeler, Debra
    2000a “What almost can reveal about counterfactual implicatures”. Journal of Pragmatics32: 1743–76. doi: 10.1016/S0378‑2166(99)00119‑8
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0378-2166(99)00119-8 [Google Scholar]
  48. 2000b “The Role of Quantity Implicatures in the Grammaticalisation of would ”. Language Sciences22: 27–61. doi: 10.1016/S0388‑0001(99)00006‑6
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0388-0001(99)00006-6 [Google Scholar]
  49. 2010 “Running the Gauntlet on the Approximatives Debate: A Response to Recent Challenges”. Journal of Pragmatics42: 681–704. doi: 10.1016/j.pragma.2009.07.008
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2009.07.008 [Google Scholar]
  50. 2015 “Calamities and Counterfactuals: A Historical Review of Polarity Reversal”. Revue Anglophonia19: http-anglophonia.
    [Google Scholar]
  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): counterfactuality; expletive negation; intersubjectivity; proximative adverbs
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error