Edited by Sylvie Hancil, Tine Breban and José Vicente Lozano
[Studies in Language Companion Series 202] 2018
► pp. 259–290
Pragmatic uses of nu in Old Saxon and Old English
The Proto-Germanic temporal adverb *nū has developed pragmatic uses in most Present-Day Germanic languages, as a modal particle and/or as a discourse marker. Synchronically, the two categories are usually considered distinct, but they have much in common, especially in terms of function. Diachronically, it is unclear whether they typically develop independently or constitute two different steps in the same evolutionary pathway. This paper examines two closely related early Germanic corpora (Old English and Old Saxon verse) to determine whether uses of nu matching the formal and functional features typically associated with modal particles and discourse markers respectively can be identified there. It finds that many of the pragmatic uses found in Present-Day Germanic languages can already be observed to some extent in those corpora, especially in Old English, but that there is still too much continuity between the various pragmatic uses of nu (and indeed between lexical, grammatical and pragmatic uses of nu) in Old English and Old Saxon to consider that such uses reflect the existence of truly distinct markers.