Jespersen's Cycle and the History of German Negation: Challenges from a Sociolinguistic Perspective

Stephan Elspass, N Langer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


In recent years, historical sociolinguists have started to look at developments that are
shared by European or ‘Western’ languages not only from a typological, but also from
a sociohistorical point of view (e.g. Deumert and Vandenbussche 2003; Vandenbussche
and Elspaß 2007). In the light of the standardization histories of such languages after
the Middle Ages, external factors of language change appear to be more influential than
internal factors. The traditional histories of most European languages focus on written
language (which is intertwined with the spread of the written word, particularly via
printed texts) and they are determined by such factors as the rise of standard varieties
(entailing a suppression of other languages and varieties, e.g. regional dialects) and
the selection and codification of variants (entailing a stigmatization of other variants),
which are governed by notions about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ language(s). In this paper, we
will present and discuss some key developments in the history of New High German
against the background of the rise of standard (High) German and the standard language
ideology in the German-speaking countries. The case of negation in German will serve
as a concrete example to illustrate these developments.

Translated title of the contributionA Sociolinguistic Reassessment of the History of German Negation
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-292
Number of pages18
JournalNeuphilologische Mitteilungen
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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