In both standard and nonstandard varieties of English there are several contexts in which the word never functions as a sentential negator rather than as a negative temporal adverb. This article investigates the pragmatic and distributional differences between the various non-temporal uses of never and examines their synchronic and historical relationship to the ordinary temporal quantifier use, drawing on corpora of Early Modern and present-day British English. Primary focus is on (i) a straightforward negator use that in prescriptively approved varieties of English has an aspectual restriction to non-chance, completive achievement predicates in the preterite, but no such restriction in nonstandard English; and (ii) a distinct categorical-denial use that quantifies over possible perspectives on a situation. Against Cheshire (1998), it is argued that neither of these uses represents continuity with non-temporal uses of never in Middle English, but both are instead relatively recent innovations resulting from semantic reanalysis and the semanticization of implicatures.
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