University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


Taylor Jones


This work examines a change in negation in African American English. Speakers are using a lexical item, eem, that while likely descended from even is shown to be a distinct lexical item. For many speakers, it is a negative polarity item, however here it is argued that for some it has moved from NPI to overt marker of negation, and in some instances is the only marker of negation in a clause. Like other overt markers of negation, it can trigger negative concord and trigger local phonological agreement (e.g., can’t to cain’t). It is also shown to license its own NPIs, including even (e.g., I eem even say that ‘). Because it is a change in negation in which an NPI is reanalyzed as negation, it is relevant to the research on Jespersen’s Cycle (JC), though it is crucially different from previously discussed instances of JC in two respects: both elements are preverbal, and all four stages are attested, in simultaneous competition.