Pourquoi 'pas' : the socio-historical linguistics behind the grammaticalization of the French negative marker

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2008-12

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Abstract

This study is an examination of the role of sociolinguistics in the process of grammaticalization. The modern French negative pas outlasted its competitors among postverbal negators to be selected for inclusion in the modern language. This dissertation seeks to explain why that is so by using the sociolinguistic framework of social network theory. Social network theory postulates that linguistic variables are spread by means of weak, uni-dimensional social links between individuals. Using this framework, it is postulated that medieval Jewish merchants from southern France were responsible for the spread of pas from its area of dialectal predominance in the south to other regions of the country. Dialectological, historical and sociological support for that hypothesis is presented as evidence of the plausibility of the hypothesis.

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