The pragmatic motifs of the Jespersen cycle: default, activation, and the history of negation in French

Pierre Larrivée

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The purpose of this article is to delimit the role of pragmatic specialization in the evolution of negation in French. The change in the marking of sentential negation is believed to proceed in characterized stages that would together constitute the Jespersen cycle. As a marker becomes the default expression of negation, the other markers do not necessarily fade away, and are maintained with specialized roles that include pragmatic functions. One such pragmatic function is that of activation (Dryer 1996), by which a proposition is presented as accessible to the hearer. Activation is shown to motivate the use of preverbal non that competes with 'ne' for several centuries. The claims that the emergence of postverbal pas in early French and the loss of 'ne' in contemporary spoken French are associated with activation are considered on the basis of novel data. It is concluded that pragmatic functions contribute to language change by providing marked options that may be conferred the default status in a grammatical paradigm.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2240-2258
Number of pages19
JournalLingua
Volume120
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2010

Bibliographical note

NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Lingua. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Larrivée, Pierre (2010). The pragmatic motifs of the Jespersen cycle: default, activation, and the history of negation in French. Lingua, 120 (9), pp. 2240-2258. DOI 10.1016/j.lingua.2010.03.001

Keywords

  • negation
  • Jespersen cycle
  • default
  • markedness
  • pragmatic activation
  • French

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