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Journal Articles Folia Linguistica Year : 2018

Semantic bleaching of 'nu' in Old Saxon


In many Present-Day Germanic languages, reflexes of Proto-Germanic *nu have developed pragmatic and grammatical uses: in such uses, the earlier, lexical meaning of the word (“now”, “presently”) has been weakened or lost while new meanings have appeared. Pragmatic (especially connective) uses of nu have been identified in several ancient Germanic languages, but in such corpora, it can be difficult to distinguish between a genuine discourse marker and mere pragmatic inferences based on the lexical meaning of a given word. Such is certainly the case for Old Saxon, where nu seems to be used as a discourse marker in some cases, but where it is hard to determine whether such uses ever truly supplant nu’s temporal meaning. This paper systematically examines nu’s patterns of co-occurrence to determine whether nu is showing any sign of having undergone semantic bleaching. Examination of the data shows no evidence of semantic bleaching. There is a very strong connection between nu and markers referring to the moment of utterance or the situation of utterance more generally. Conversely, there are no cases of co-occurrence with markers whose meaning is strictly incompatible with nu’s lexical meaning and few instances of co-occurrence with markers expressing distance (temporal or otherwise) from the situation of utterance. Some patterns hint at the possibility of pragmatic uses of nu having already started to conventionalize to a limited extent, but such uses seem to have co-existed with nu’s temporal meaning without ever supplanting it.


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hal-02452574 , version 1 (25-01-2020)



Elise Louviot. Semantic bleaching of 'nu' in Old Saxon. Folia Linguistica, 2018, 39 (2), pp.441-473. ⟨10.1515/flih-2018-0016⟩. ⟨hal-02452574⟩
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