The development of “supportive” (or
“periphrastic”) DO in English suffered a curious and sharp
reversal late in the 16th century in negative declaratives and questions
according to Ellegård's (1953)
database, with a recovery late in the following century. This article
examines the variation between DO and the full verb in negative
declaratives in this database, from 1500 to 1710. It is shown that both
register variation and age-grading are relevant, and that the periods
1500–1575 and 1600–1710 have radically distinct properties.
The second period shows substantial age-grading, and is interpreted as
having introduced a fresh evaluative principle governing register
variation. Negative questions supply data that suggest that the
development of clitic negation may have been implicated in the development
of the new evaluation. This change in evaluation accounts for the apparent
reversal in the development of DO, and we can abandon the view that it was
a consequence of grammatical restructuring.
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