Identifying the Role of Pragmatic Activation in Changes to the Expression of English Negation

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


This paper builds on Wallage (2013) to demonstrate that pragmatic activation plays a role in two processes of grammaticalisation in early English – not only in the grammaticalisation of the negative marker not during Middle English (c.1100- 1500AD), but also in the grammaticalisation of do as a tense marker in Early Modern English negative clauses (c.1500-1700AD). While competing variants are semantically equivalent, different variants are used to mark different pragmatic functions. Innovative forms tend to appear in pragmatically activated (discourse- given) propositions and older forms in inactivated (discourse-new) propositions. Logistic regression analyses of diachronic data provide a way to identify pragmatic changes in progress, and hence to ascertain what role the loss of functional constraints on a form plays in its grammaticalisation. Van der Auwera (2009), Hansen (2009) and Hansen and Visconti (2009) argue that pragmatic change precedes the grammaticalisation of the French negative marker pas. They argue this accounts for its increased use over time. However, the overall frequencies of not and do increase despite pragmatic constraints on their use remaining consistent over time. Instead, pragmatic constraints on not and do are lost at the point when the forms are grammaticalised – that is, when the competitors to not and do are lost.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNegation and Polarity: experimental perspectives
EditorsPierre Larrivée, Chungmin Lee
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages359
ISBN (Print)9783319174631
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015

Publication series

NameLanguage, Cognition, and Mind
PublisherSpringer International Publishing

Cite this