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Grammatical ChangeOrigins, Nature, Outcomes$
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Dianne Jonas, John Whitman, and Andrew Garrett

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199582624

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199582624.001.0001

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A minimalist approach to Jespersen’s Cycle in Welsh

A minimalist approach to Jespersen’s Cycle in Welsh

5 A minimalist approach to Jespersen’s Cycle in Welsh
Grammatical Change

David Willis

Oxford University Press

This chapter gives a minimalist analysis of the development of clausal negation in Welsh. It attests the familiar Jespersen's Cycle with negation: The Modern Welsh negative marker ddim descends from the Middle Welsh noun dim ‘thing’, which co-occurred as a minimizer with the original negative particle ny(t) before eventually replacing it. The chapter takes on the important question of the apparent gradualness of these developments, always a challenge to acquisition-based accounts of grammatical change. It argues that the ‘cycle’ in fact decomposes into a series of stages, with the crucial stages being those where some children reanalyze dim as an adverb, then as a polarity adverb, and finally as the bearer of the uninterpretable [Neg] feature in the clause. The switch in the locus of this feature brings a distinctively minimalist flavour to the analysis of an important diachronic pattern.

Keywords:   clausal negation, Jespersen's Cycle, negative marker, grammatical change

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