Case Study 1: The Spread of Change in French Negation

  • Angus Grieve-SmithEmail author


French is an example of Jespersen’s Cycle (Negation in English and Other Languages. Copenhagen: Munksgaard, 1917), with a shift from ne alone to ne … pas to pas alone over the past 500 years. Grieve-Smith (The Spread of Change in French Negation. Ph.D. diss., University of New Mexico, 2009) found that in Old French ne … pas appears predominantly in contexts that are consistent with presupposition denial but increased in frequency from the sixteenth through twentieth centuries, appearing in predicate negation contexts. This fits with Kroch’s (Language Variation and Change 1: 199–244, 1989) application of Verhulst’s (Correspondence Mathématiques et Physiques 10: 113, 1838) logistic model of population increase, which can be explained by Bybee’s (Language and Cognitive Processes 10 (425)–455, 1995) connection of type frequency to analogical extension. Unfortunately, the concerns about representativeness raised in Chap.  2 apply to this study. Texts in the Digital Parisian Stage corpus have a significantly lower token frequency of ne alone than those in FRANTEXT for 1800–1815.


Jespersen’s Cycle; Negation; French; Corpus; Syntax 


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The New SchoolNew YorkUSA

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