University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Workshop "Formalism and Functionalism in Negation" > Negative Concord in the history of German

Negative Concord in the history of German

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Modern Standard German is a non-NC language. However, NC can be found in some synchronic dialects and also in earlier stages of German. A corpus-based study of the development shows that both the type of NC as well as the main syntactic patterns competing with NC changed diachronically. While Old High German and Middle High German basically only show NC of the type of Neg-Doubling with the Neg° negative particle ni/ne, Modern German NC dialects have NC both of the Neg-Doubling and of the Neg-Spread type between negative XPs. The main syntactic pattern competing with NC in Old High German consisted in marking negation on the verb but not on the indefinite pronoun or adverb. In Middle High German and Modern German NC dialects, on the other hand, the main competitor to NC constructions is to mark negation only by means of an indefinite. The corpus study further reveals that there is a significant decrease in NC already from Old High German to Middle High German parallel to the loss of the overt Neg° element through Jespersen’s Cycle. These observations are crucially linked to the development of the system of indefinites.

This talk is part of the Workshop "Formalism and Functionalism in Negation" series.

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