Research Paper

Brazilian Portuguese noun phrases: An optimality theoretic perspective

Abstract

In this paper we examine the nominal system in Brazilian Portuguese (BrP), a challenge to cross-linguistic studies which rely on the generalization that a language that has indefinites should not have bare nouns. BrP has bare singulars, bare plurals, singular and plural indefinites. We examine the behavior of these phrases, mostly in object position of episodic predicates, and propose that each has a different semantics. The nominal system of BrP can be successfully explained, we argue, within the bi-directional Optimality Theory (biOT) theoretical framework developed by Hendriks et al. (2010). This approach allows us to describe and explain patterns of competition, and accounts for language variation by constraint reranking. For BrP, we propose the synchronic coexistence of two grammars: bare plurals appear in the formal variety of BrP that maintains plural agreement, and bare singulars appear in informal spoken BrP, along with plural definites and indefinites that lack plural agreement on the noun. Under this analysis, BPs denote inclusive plurals, while BSs get a non-atomic semantics that covers both mass and plural interpretations.

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Oliveira, R. & Swart, H., (2015) “Brazilian Portuguese noun phrases: An optimality theoretic perspective”, Journal of Portuguese Linguistics 14(1), p.63-93. doi: https://doi.org/10.5334/jpl.58

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Roberta Pires de Oliveira (Universidade Federal do Paraná/CNPq, Rua Itapiranga, 200, bloco 2, apto 202. Itacorubi, CEP:88034-480. Florianópolis, SC. Brazil)
Henriëtte de Swart (Utrecht University, Trans 10, 3512 JK UTRECHT, The Netherlands)

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