Non-literary Late Middle English (LME) showed substantial variation
in the syntax of negated quantifiers, whether in Subject or Object NPs (Ingham 2002). These, unlike ordinary NPs, could appear
either in the canonical positions of PDE, or in displaced positions, e.g.:-
(1) There schulde no man sey nay to it
Paston, D 647,45
(2) I may non leysour haue Paston D 182,48
Analyses presented in the present paper show some variation
between Negative Concord (NC) and PDE any-series quantifiers within negated contexts, e.g.:-
(3) Mi hert, whether it lufe my god or noght, wate no man bot god,
for noght ■at ■ai may se me do.
Rolle, Form, Ms Cambs Dd V. 64 Horstmann ed. 39,5
(4) ■at nane suld reprehend
■am in any thing ■at ■ai do
Rolle, Form, Ms Cambs Dd V. 64 Horstmann ed. 5,33
It is known that present-day Scandinavian languages show tendencies
towards negative argument displacement and also have lost NC. We sought to understand whether these two types of variation
in LME were related to contact influence with Scandinavian.
Results from the examination of private correspondence and religious
prose data show that variation in LME negated quantifier displacement seems not to have been strongly associated with geographical
area, though there is a perceptibly greater incidence in East Midlands than in more Western 15th century sources. In any case
it is doubtful that the variety of Scandinavian spoken settlers in Eastern England had distinct syntactic possibilities for
negated quantifiers. OV with ordinary objects continued to be productive in older forms of Icelandic (Hrˇarsdˇttir 2000) until
recent times. The distinctive syntax of negated argument displacement in LME is thus hard to identify with contact influence.
Variation between NC and any-series forms in negated contexts showed
a clearer geographical association. Prose writers of Northern origin, particularly Rolle and Wyclif, made substantial use
of any-series items where Southern writers, e.g. Trevisa and Chaucer, had virtually exclusive NC. Verse texts from the same
period present a similar picture, with northern verse being less strict in following NC than southern/midland.
Crosslinguistically, Rowlett (1998) links NC to the existence of
a negative head element. As shown by Jack (1978), the ME negative head particle ne was retained longer in the South. Old Norse
between the supposed dates of composition of the Poetic Edda (c. 900-1050), and the Prose Edda (13th-14th centuries), showed
a decline of the Negative head -a(t) in favour of the adverbial negator eigi ('not') (Eythˇrsson 2002). It is shown that the
vast majority of negated quantifiers in the Poetic Edda are already unsupported by a negative head. It is concluded that contact
with Scandinavian language varieties featuring negative quantifiers unsupported by a negative head could have facilitated
the demise of NC in Northern varieties of English.
‘Negative concord and the loss of the negative particle ne in late Middle English’.
Studia Anglica Posnaniensia, 42, 77-96, 2006