A corpus-based study of change and variation in much, many, far and often as Negative Polarity Items
Lee, Ji Won
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This dissertation takes a corpus-based approach to the diachronic development of the multal quantifiers and scalar adverbs much, many, far and often as Negative Polarity Items (NPIs) in English. NPIs are words or expressions that are grammatical in certain contexts (negation, questions, conditionals) but unacceptable in the affirmative. The investigation identified two main factors correlated with the NPI tendency of much, many, far and often : change over time and register difference. Using corpora spanning over 6 centuries, the study found that the negative polarity of the quantifiers and scalar adverbs emerged largely in the early 20 th century and, with the exception of the adverbial uses of much and the idiomatic expression much of a , only in the colloquial (spoken) register as opposed to the formal written language. Journalistic writing shows more NPI tendency compared to the non-fiction of the same time period. In order to accurately measure the polarity sensitivity of the quantifiers, a ratio of ratios was calculated to quantify the distribution of much/many across NPI and non-NPI contexts compared to the distribution of all equivalent multal and paucal quantifiers ( much/many, LOT, a great deal/quite a few, little/few, etc.). A number of apparently related changes have occurred, with non-assertive paucal quantifiers and scalar adverbs ( little/few/seldom and rarely ) largely disappearing from the colloquial spoken language, the NPI behavior of much, many and often emerging, and LOT and other 'elaborated' forms largely replacing much, many and often in affirmative contexts. The study also found that much, many, far and often vary in the strength of their polarity sensitivity. The replacement of little, few, seldom/rarely with NEG much, many and often in the colloquial spoken language can be seen as one manifestation of a gradual tendency towards the prevalence of not -negation over no -negation in the English language in general and particularly in the spoken language. The prevalent use of much, many, far and often as NPIs in opposition to LOT etc. mainly in affirmative contexts closely resembles the English-specific pattern in the indefinites, where NPI any- contrasts with some- .