The history of the Greek NEG2: two parameter resets linked to a syntactic status shift

  • Katerina Chatzopoulou
Keywords: Greek, negation, parametric change


This paper discusses two shifts that took place in the history of Greek regarding the distribution of the negative polarity negator NEG2 μη in the transition from Koine to Medieval Greek: (i) the loss of true negative imperatives (the unavailability of NEG2 with morphological imperatives), and (ii) the loss of NEG2 from the conditional antecedent. I propose an account according to which both changes relate to a syntactic status shift of NEG2, one major shift, from specifier to head, and one more subtle shift that relates to the exact location of NEG2 on the Cinque (1999) hierarchy. The major shift, from specifier to head regarding NEG, explains the loss of true negative imperatives by Late Medieval Greek, according to analyses that link the (un)availability of true negative imperatives to negator status (Rivero 1994, Rivero and Terzi 1995, Zeijlstra 2004, 2006). The subtle shift, described as microelevation on the Cinque hierarchy, offers an explanation on how NEG2 eventually became incompatible with the conditional particles and as a result NEG2 was banned from the conditional antecedent, following a line of reasoning introduced in Roberts (2010) regarding the application of the cartographic approach in explaining grammaticalization paths crosslinguistically.