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On two negative concord dialects in early English

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 August 2006

Richard Ingham
Affiliation:
UCE Birmingham

Abstract

Hogg (2004), Levin (1958), and Ogura (1999) have shown the existence of dialectal differences as regards Old English (OE) negative contraction. This study reassesses the traditional view that OE showed optional use of negative concord (NC), and finds instead that variation in NC was dialectal, based on an analysis of 260 instances of indefinites in OE (prose) negated clauses. Standard West Saxon (WS) texts systematically accompanied a negated indefinite (NI) with the particle ne. In non-WS texts ne use was systematic with a postverbal negated indefinite but variable with preverbal NIs. A sample of 389 NIs in Middle English (ME) verse texts from around 1300 from selected dialect areas showed a similar dissociation. These two sets of findings lend support to the notion of a persisting dialect split in early English whereby symmetrical NC characterized the South/Southwest area while Midland regions of England had asymmetric NC. West Saxon texts may thus represent a regional vernacular tendency as regards NC, not merely a standardized scribal dialect.The author wishes to acknowledge the helpful comments of anonymous referees. All remaining errors and misinterpretations are my own.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2006 Cambridge University Press

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