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Gender and language change in Old Norse sentential negatives

  • Tam Blaxter (a1)

One consistent finding across sociolinguistic studies is the tendency for female speakers to lead in ongoing change. Different explanations have been proposed for this and a key method of testing these explanations is to identify whether the pattern occurs in the languages of a wider range of societies than have been studied thus far. Historical societies are relatively understudied in this regard, but undertaking variationist research into gender in historical varieties presents many challenges. One way to overcome these is to examine variation internal to fiction data. This paper presents an analysis of the effect of gender on the adverb selected for sentential negation in Old Norse prose fiction. It finds that female characters lead consistently in this change over time. In doing so, it demonstrates the feasibility of using fiction data when examining the effect of gender in historical varieties such as Old Norse.

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