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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1942/5543

Title: On Old and Middle English need in positive and negative contexts
Authors: TAEYMANS, Martine
Issue Date: 2005
Citation: Belgian Journal of English Language and Literature, N.S. 3. p. 105-123
Abstract: The standard view on the development of present-day English need is that it developed from an impersonal use meaning 'it is necessary that', and subsequently replaced the preterite present 'purfan' need., which suffered from an increasing homonymy with Middle English durren 'dare'. A perusal of the Helsinki an Penn-Helsinki corpora indeed shows that purfan was replaced by Middle English neden in non-assertive contexts by the end of the Middle English period. However, this leaves us with the question of what happened in positive contexts. Corpus evidence suggests that when the 'need' sense was required in positive contexts, a range of personal and impersonal constructions was used in Old English using the nouns pearf, neod and the mixed form nedpearf, all meaning 'need'. Interestingly enough, the pearf constructions died a sudden death in early Middle English and were replaced by constructions with neod, which in fact existed from Old English onwards, but were much more rare. It is argued that the replacement of pearf by neod may have facilitated the replacement of the verb purfan by need, as the nominal replacement preceded the verbal replacement. Furthermore, it might help explain why it was the 'dare' sense and the Middle English durren-like form in the purfan-durren homonymy that survived.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1942/5543
ISSN: 1376-2958
Category: A1
Type: Journal Contribution
Validation: vabb, 2010
Appears in Collections: Research publications

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