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Esmeralda Negrao

Ph.D. Dissertation, 1986


In this dissertation I explore the syntax and the semantics of overt and empty categories in Brazilian Portuguese (BP). Data on complementation plays a large role here since in those constructions the behaviour of NP's in general, and overt and empty pronomials in particular, offers us interesting evidence to test the principles of linguistic theories. In this context, the study of BP is very revealing because, not only is this language a null subject language, and therefore, allows empty categories in the subject position of tensed sentences, but it also exhibits a second very important property, namely, overt lexical NP's can occur in the subject position of non-tensed sentences. Government and Binding (GB) (Chomsky, 1982a) is the syntactic theory chosen because it derives the distribution and interpretation of overt and empty categories from the interaction between the principles of various subtheories within the theory of universal grammar. But, as they stand, these principles cannot explain some of the data involving complementation in BP. In particular, they cannot predict the structures in which control may take place. The problems arise from the fact that the distribution and interpretation of NP's in the subject position of embedded clauses in BP cannot be predicted from the type of clause which those complements, represent, and therefore cannot be derived from the distribution of the features which constitute their INFL node. Since the distribution and interpretation of NP's in the subject position of the complement clauses of BP proves to be dependent on the meaning of matrix verbs, a semantic analysis for the data is proposed, assuming the framework offered by the semantic theory known as Situation Semantics (Barwise & Perry, 1983). The generalization that control relations are properties associated with the meaning of matrix verbs is captured through the use of three theoretical notions from Situation Semantics: constraints, fact-type and parameters.

Department of Linguistics University of Wisconsin-Madison

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