“Jespersen’s Cycle and the Expansion of Periphrastic do in English”.

Bibliographical details

Iyeiri, Yoko. 2018. “Jespersen’s Cycle and the Expansion of Periphrastic do in English”. Memoirs of the Faculty of Letters, Kyoto University 57: 99-133. (Downloadable PDF)

Jespersen’s Cycle of negation

This paper revisits Jespersen’s Cycle of negation. While most studies on this famous theory concentrate on the shift from ne V through ne V not to V not, the present study focuses on the later development of negative constructions in English, namely the shift from V not to do not V (and subsequently to don’t V).

The discussion is based on the analysis of (1) the data from 1600 to 1749 of the Archer Corpus (A Representative Corpus of Historical English Registers) (ver. 3.2), which consists of British English only (605,262 words); and (2) the entirety of the Lampeter Corpus of Early Modern English Tracts (1640-1740), which again consists of British English (1,193,385 words).

The concluding remarks of this paper includes: “As argued above, Jespersen’s Cycle is a mechanism to keep balance between weaker and stronger forms of negation rather than the constant weakening or strengthening of negation”. (p. 129)

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