Edited by Maj-Britt Mosegaard Hansen and Corinne Rossari
[Journal of Historical Pragmatics 6:2] 2005
► pp. 262–282
In this paper we provide a synchronic and diachronic analysis of an instance of so-called “expletive” negation in the Spanish approximative adverb por poco. Synchronically, we show that this adverb, when combined with the sentence negator no, is ambiguous between ~p (“expletive”) and ~~p (“canonical”) meanings. Diachronically, we show that this ambiguity arose due to a change in the negation system of Spanish around the fifteenth century. As a result, the supposed instances of “expletive” negation found in present-day uses of por poco are not really expletive at all, but rather are a holdover from the Old Spanish requirement of preverbal negative concord.
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