Non-cyclical change in negation and indefinites in romance : a case study of Béarnese Gascon




High, Karina Anne

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This study examines negative cycles and indefinite cycles in the Gascon variety of Béarnese from the 13th to 21st century. This period reveals significant structural changes in both negative strategies and the indefinite system, against the sociohistorical backdrop of successive political allegiances between the viscounty of Béarn and neighboring kingdoms. While formally integrated into the French kingdom in 1620, Béarn maintained a semblance of independence until the French Revolution, with its language as a key part of its sense of autonomy. Historical and typological studies of negation, such as Jespersen (1917), Croft (1991), and Van Gelderen (2008), propose models of cyclical change. As new material is recruited to grammaticalize into new negators, this may affect other items that fall within the scope of negation, like indefinites. As one indefinite series develops a new function, a new indefinite series emerges to fulfill its older function. This development is captured by Haspelmath’s work (1997) on indefinite pronouns. He proposes an implicational map to capture the diachronic and synchronic distribution of indefinite series across functions. In my corpus, the first instance of bipartite negation occurs in 1282. However, from the 13th until the 16th century, the preferred form of negation is simple negation, representing 69% to 99% of negative constructions. The increase in bipartite constructions after the 16th century suggests that it has become the neutral form of negation. Around this time, there is an increase in emphatic expressions and a first instance of negative tripling in the 17th century. From the 14th-16th century, the Béarnese indefinite series selected by direct negation experiences much change, starting with the Latinate nulh (13th-14th) and the Central Occitan negun (14th-16th) and degun (14th-16th), and ending with the current possibly Ibero-Romance nat (16th-). Béarnese represents an intermediate position between Gallo-Romance and Ibero-Romance. While some characteristics may be the result of language contact, some are due to relatedness. These concurrent developments are well documented in some languages, but are not well studied in smaller Romance languages, like Gascon. This study highlights the diversity of negative cycles and indefinite cycles in Romance using corpus-based and quantitative methods.


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