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Abstract

In Old English, negative adjectives, i.e. incorporating the negative prefix -un, are said to generally come in postposition to nouns (e.g. Fischer, 2001; Sampson, 2010). This paper investigates to what extent this general rule is followed in Aelfric’s Catholic Homilies, the texts of this author being a typical choice for the study of Old English syntax (cf. Davis 2006; Reszkiewcz, 1966; Kohonen, 1978). The data have been obtained from the York-Toronto-Helsinki Parsed Corpus of Old English Prose (YCOE). The following research questions have been formulated: Do strong negative adjectives outnumber nonnegated adjectives in postposition? Do strong negative adjectives have a tendency to appear in postposition? Do strong negated adjectives occur in preposition? The results indicated that for the sample analyzed, strong adjectives in postposition are not predominantly negated. Additionally, the postposition of most of those which are may potentially be explained by other factors, such as modification by a prepositional phrase, co-occurrence with a weak preposed adjective (both mentioned by Fischer), or indirect Latin influence in a formulaic phrase. Also, the data does not appear to support the observation that negated adjectives tend to appear in post- rather than preposition.

Abstract

This study examines two types of semantic change, namely amelioration and pejoration, through comparing the positive/negative senses of 20 English adjectives over time in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). It also aims to explore whether the semantic change, which may have occurred in these words, can be associated with their frequency in The British National Corpus (BNC). The results reveal that the stability of the target adjectives has indeed changed over time. The positive adjectives were originally somewhat negative, neutral or positive, and then started to become positive if they were previously negative or neutral if they were previously positive. Conversely, the negative adjectives tend to become less negative over time. The study suggests that the semantic change of these adjectives could have been motivated by a tendency to reduce lexical complexity, which speakers may have done for pragmatic reasons, such as successful communication. The study also proposes that the semantic change could also be related with the frequency of the adjectives undergoing the change. The study concludes with recommendations for further research.

most frequent unigrams extracted from those user comments. Strongly negative adjectives and expletives prevail. We realised that this variation in user assessments was part of the subjective nature of this task, so we did not exclude users who failed the training. We did however filter users according to the user trust score that CrowdFlower provides, and selected only users with the highest user trust, as follows: CrowdFlower divides all users into three groups according to their trust score. CrowdFlower reports that this score is computed based on the user