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On the nature of Grammaticalization: Pas and the negative polarity of bare singulars in older French

Gertjan Postma (Nijmegen University)/ Dept of Linguistics

French pas 'not' figures in the linguistic literature in two contexts. It is a prototypical case of a lexeme in the Jespersen cycle: il nen vient -> il ne vient -> il ne vient um pas -> il ne vient pas -> il vient pas (Jespersen 1917). The noun phrase um pas 'step' is used as a reinforcing negation in a stage where the negative clitic has lost sufficient strength to carry the negation alone.
    A second context where pas figures in the linguistic literature is grammaticalisation: pas undergoes a transition from a full lexical item 'step' to a functional word indicating negation. Through a stage of negative polarity, it acquires the function of negator and loses its grammatical status as a full-fletched noun along with its original lexical meaning ("bleaching", Hopper & Traugott 1993). In this process pas loses its determiner and becomes bare.
    The bare singularity of pas and nouns in general will be the topic of this paper. We will show that the transition to bare-singularity is not only understandable diachronically, but can be understood as synchronic process of N-to-D head movement.
    First we will show that bare singulars in older French license the single clitic negation, cf. (1a-d).

(1)a.    Il n'est hobereau qui ne fasse contre nous tels bans publier    
        There NEG is squire who NEG make.SUBJ.PAST against us such ban
        'There is no squire (=nobody at all) who would issue such a ban against us'
    b.    Il n'est marmot osant crier, que du Loup aussitôt sa mère ne menace.
        There NEG is nipper daring cry, that of-the wolf at once his mother threatens
        'there is no nipper that dares to cry, but his mother treatens him with the worf'
    c.    Il n'etoit fils de bonne mêre qui ...
        There NEG was son of good mother that ...
        'There was no son of Our Lady that ...'
    d.    Femme n'etoit qui n'y courût
        woman NEG was that NEG there ran
        'There was no woman that run to it'

Secondly, such bare singulars have the distribution of negative polarity items in the sense that they only occur in negative clauses: cases like (2) are not found.

(2)        *Femme etoit qui courût

We will show that the negative polarity of bare singulars is not a quirk of older French: similar effects are present in other Romance languages and the Germanic languages that have a negative clitic (Postma 2002).
    We will then show that this bareness should be understood as a result of N-to-D head movement similar to cases discussed in Longobardi (1994).  Evidence for head-movement will be drawn from Spanish and Portuguese where inversion of noun and possessive adjective (3) and inversion of noun and indefinite determiner (4) produces negative polarity.

(3)        Filho meu não/*ø vai estudar linguística
        Son my NEG/ø will study lingtuistics
        'My son will not study linguistics!'
(4)        Não/*ø aconteceu coisa alguma
        NEG/ø happend thing some
        'There did not happen anything'

Whereas Portuguese algum homem and its Spanish counterpart means 'some man', the inversion homem algum means 'any man' and has the distribution of a negative polarity item. Such inversions are standardly described as a result of head movement of the noun past the adjective.
    We will finally discuss the conditions in which such N-to-D constructions induce a partial loss of meaning (bleaching). Partial loss of meaning occur in negative polarity contexts, cross-linguistically. We will argue that a preliminary step of bleaching is present in the examples (1a-d) above where the lexical items does not seem fully active.
    We conclude that in the above case, N-to-D induces syntactic isolation (bareness), reduction of meaning, and rise of a functional meaning (strengthening negation), the main ingredients of grammaticalisation. This will identify the synchronic transformation of N-to-D as a precursor of the diachronic effect of 'grammaticalisation'. This is a first indication that grammaticalisation realizes itself as a unitary process, despite the fact that it can be 'deconstructed' (Newmeyer 1996).

Longobardi, Giuseppe (1994) Reference and proper names: a theory of N-movement in syntax and logical form, Linguistic Inquiry, 25, 609-665.
Jespersen, Otto (1966; 1917): Negation in English and other Languages. " Kopenhagen: Ejnar Munksgaard.
Hopper, Paul. J. & Traugott, Elizabeth (1993): Grammaticalization. " Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Newmeyer, F. (1996) Deconstructing Grammaticalization. In: Newmeyer, F. Generative linguistics : a historical perspective. Routledge, London.