Vol. 7 No. 20 (2023): An anchoring approach to the diachrony of negative concord in Spanish

Aaron Yamada. In Old Spanish, Negative Concord Items (NCIs) (nada ’nothing’, ninguno ’none’, etc.) co-occurred preverbally with the sentential negative marker non ’no’. The exception to this pattern was the NCI nunca ’never’, which showed an almost categorical tendency to avoid co-occurrence with the sentential negative marker when placed preverbally. By the beginning of the 16th century, this pattern had mostly been lost, giving way to the Modern Spanish configuration, in which preverbal NCIs cannot co-occur with the sentential negative marker to express a single negation reading. This paper offers a novel explanation to this change, grounded in usage-based approaches to language diachrony, in arguing that nunca served as a cognitive anchor (Goldberg (2005)), or model of comparison for other NCIs in preverbal position. In other words, phrase structures with preverbally placed NCIs show analogical leveling towards the modern configuration, following the example set forth by the highly frequent exemplar [nunca + V]. The advantage of this approach is a causal, quantitatively defended explanation for the loss of Old Spanish preverbal NC that takes into account the unique behavior of nunca.
Published: 2023-10-30