The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Syntax Square 3/30 - Filipe Kobayashi (MIT)

Speaker: Filipe Kobayashi (MIT)
Title: Brazilian Portuguese matrix null subjects as truncation: evidence from negative concord
Time: Tuesday, March 30th, 1pm – 2pm
Note: This week’s Syntax Square session is only open to department members.

Abstract: Despite no longer being a pro-drop language, under certain circumstances Brazilian Portuguese allows for null first person subjects in matrix clauses (Rodrigues 2004). In this presentation, I defend that these are due to a rule of clausal truncation (Rizzi 1993/1994, Pesetsky 2019). Evidence for this analysis will come from the interaction of null subjects and negative concord. Brazilian Portuguese is a non-strict negative concord language, which means that negative concord items like ninguém (’nobody’) in post-verbal position require the presence of clause-mate sentential negation. The crucial datapoint is illustrated in (1) where we see that, if the subject is dropped, the negative concord item can be licensed in the absence of negation. This study is in its very early stages so comments and references are very welcome at this point!

(1) {*Eu, ∅} falei com ninguém.
I spoke with nobody.
“I didn’t speak with anybody.”