The syntax of naming constructions in European Portuguese dialects: variation and change


This paper discusses the syntax of naming constructions with the verb chamar ‘to call’. We show that in some varieties of European Portuguese the verb chamar displays an alternation in the expression of the named entity, which is manifested by the presence/omission of the preposition a in sentences like Nós chamamos (a) isso cruzeta ‘lit. We call (to) this hanger’. We will look at this phenomenon from an areal, historical and theoretical perspective, trying to relate the intricate patterns observed. We will show that the alternation with the verb chamar is attested in the course of the diachrony of Portuguese, but it is synchronically confined to two restricted geographical areas: the archipelago of the Azores and the northern region of the Portuguese continental territory. As for the theoretical analysis, we claim that both the variants involve a small clause complement structure, with the named entity in the subject position. The a that precedes the subject of the small clause is taken to be a kind of ‘dummy’ preposition that showed up as a strategy to resolve syntactic ambiguity in sentences exhibiting the verb chamar with the personal pronoun se (which were ambiguous between an impersonal and an anticausative reading).


Naming constructions, verb chamar, prepositional subjects, small clause complement structures

How to Cite

Cardoso, A. & Magro, C., (2012) “The syntax of naming constructions in European Portuguese dialects: variation and change”, Journal of Portuguese Linguistics 11(1), 23-43. doi:


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Adriana Cardoso (Centro de Linguística da Universidade de Lisboa)
Catarina Magro (Centro de Linguística da Universidade de Lisboa)



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