The Evolution of Pragmatic Markers
  • ISSN 1566-5852
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9854
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In this paper we provide a synchronic and diachronic analysis of an instance of so-called “expletive” negation in the Spanish approximative adverb por poco. Synchronically, we show that this adverb, when combined with the sentence negator no, is ambiguous between ~p (“expletive”) and ~~p (“canonical”) meanings. Diachronically, we show that this ambiguity arose due to a change in the negation system of Spanish around the fifteenth century. As a result, the supposed instances of “expletive” negation found in present-day uses of por poco are not really expletive at all, but rather are a holdover from the Old Spanish requirement of preverbal negative concord.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): adverb; approximative; expletive negation; negative concord; Spanish
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