Etymology: ne...pas

Discussion in 'French-English Vocabulary / Vocabulaire Français-Anglais' started by Aku, Aug 3, 2006.

  1. Aku Member

    Tagalog, English
    Hi all,

    I'm really interested to know how this negative construction came to be (it's origin)? Also, any links to articles about the subject would be very much appreciated.

    Merci beaucoup! :)

    -Aku
     
  2. Aupick

    Aupick Senior Member

    Strasbourg, France
    UK, English
  3. mplsray Senior Member

    Linguist John McWhorter discusses the matter in his book The Power of Babel. This form of negation started as an emphatic form of "I don't walk." Pas means "step," and at the time, French grammar required no article in front of it, so that the first meaning of Je ne marche pas was "I don't walk a step." Compare our "I don't care a bit." Later, pas came to be used, along with ne, for simple negation rather than for emphasis.

    Point originally meant "stitch," and so began use in such phrases as Je ne couds point ("I don't sew a stitch") from which its meaning enlarged.
     

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