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The Semantics of Syntactic Change: Aspects of the Evolution by Dieter Stein

By Dieter Stein

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There is already a very general and basic dimension of contrast in using non-phatic language at all, in that this new piece of knowledge expressed by the proposition contrasts both with pre-existing knowledge and with the other contextually and topically limited possible propositions that could have been uttered (and of course with silence). Thus every non-phatic utterance is contrastive per se: "in a broad sense every semantic peak is contrastive" (Bolinger 1961:87). The issue here, which will be of central importance for the further discussion of the semantics of do, is that there are different degrees and levels of contrastiveness.

This would also account for the prevalence of periphrastic do in poetry and songs. It seems obvious that the factors mentioned by Weiss (1956) offer a plausible hypothesis for the rise of do, which seems well worth a detailed EnglishGerman comparative study focused on the socio-historical perspective. It is perfectly plausible that the use of a causative form is held stable in its semantics as long as the users have the same second, "high" language competence in Latin and French, where parallel forms exist.

2 There seems to be a distinct line of spread north along the Rhine, with Dutch as northernmost center of influence on the continent. But it must be pointed out that there is also "meaningless periphrastic" do in areas where Latin and French were extremely weak, such as at the British Celtic fringes and in Low and Frisian German, a fact which is clearly a point in favor of the contact origin. 20 2. Do up to the fifteenth century There is another factor which must be considered in discussing the restructuring of a two-phrase structure from Latin into the periphrastic one-phrase structure, and which unites the two approaches.

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