"N-words" in Negative Structures in English

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Department of English, NTNU


本文旨在以語意學的觀點探討英語中的n-word 詞項所形成的獨立否定詞組以及在英語字彙中 n-word所隱含的歷史意義。研究結果發現 n-word 可被視為構詞學上的否極詞項 (negative polarity),而其所展現的一致性經過詞彙化 (lexicalization) 後,更衍生成為否定式量化詞 (negative quantifier) 具備闡述否定詞組的功能。本文接著提出 n-word 效應與語法化 (grammaticalization) 中的 Jespersen Cycle 的異同之處,並進一步論證在母語人士亦或地域方言中,n-word 效應並非主流。換句話說,否定語式 (negative concord) 較廣為使用。然而,n-word 效應所形成的語言現象卻為現代英語與語意學增添了多元性與包容性,為語言學研究中的重要發現。
This paper will seek to answer the following two questions: (i) How can it be that in a language such as English, multiple "n-words" can be used to express a singlesemantic negation? and (ii) what is the status of n-words such as nothing and nowhere in the English lexicon? It will be shown that a semantic re-evaluation of n-words has occurred historically, with such words originating as a kind of morphologically-complex "n-marked" Negative Polarity Item (which entered into a"concord" relationship with other negative expressions) that later underwent lexicalisation to become Negative Quantifiers capable of expressing negationindependently. Although this change is in keeping with the Jespersen Cycle, this paper will show that the change was not "across the board" in English, with both regional dialects and "the vernacular tongue" preserving the older system of negation, Negative Concord, until the present day. This has resulted in a rich and complex system of negation in modern English which has a similarly complex semantics.