Corpus-provoked question about negation in early Middle English

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In early ME negative clauses are usually formed with either (1) the negative adverb ne immediately preceding the verb, continuing Old English usage, or (2) the verb preceded by ne and followed by another negative adverb not. A later construction has not alone after the verb. The first two types give way to the third by late ME. 'Jack's Law" also shows that the construction ne...not does into occur with multiple negation from negative concord. Work towards A Linguistic Atlas of Early Middle English (LAEME) is building up a corpus of early ME texts, tagged lexico-grammatically. Tags devised for identification/comparison of lexical and morphological variation may also serve as flags for syntactic investigation. This paper illustrates this by looking at formal variation in early ME negation, considering some rarer constructions and possible syntactic constraints on their use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-321
Number of pages25
JournalLanguage Sciences
Issue number3-4
Early online date15 Mar 2002
Publication statusPublished - May 2002


  • negation
  • early Middle English
  • clausal
  • single, double, multiple
  • Jespersen's cycle
  • Jack's Law
  • negative exclusive construction (ne...but')

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