The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

MorPhun 3/11 - Suzana Fong on Brazilian Portuguese participles

Speakers: Suzana Fong (MIT)
Title: Regular and athematic participles in Brazilian Portuguese
Time: Monday, March 11th, 5-6:30 pm
Location: 32-D831


In Brazilian Portuguese, the regular participial (PTC) form of the verb can be parsed as follows:

(1) com-i-d-as
‘eaten’ [where ‘TH’ is a theme vowel]

Besides a regular form (2a), some verbs also allow for an additional short form of the PTC (2b):

(2) a. Regular participle
b. Short/Athematic participle

Short PTC’s like (2b) lack both the participial morpheme (-d in (1) and (2a)) and a theme vowel (-a in (2a)), hence why they are referred to as athematic PTC’s.

In this presentation, I focus on the distribution of the PTC when both a regular and an athematic form is in principle available. In particular, we will look at the PTC form(s) that occur(s) in three constructions: verbal passives (3a), adjectival passives (3b), and absolute participles (3c).
(3) a. Verbal passive: regular or athematic PTC allowed
As gavetas foram limp-a-d-as / limp-as pelo João.
the drawers were cleaned(REG) / cleaned(ATHEM) by.the João
‘The drawers were cleaned by João.’

b. Adjectival passive: only athematic PTC allowedAs gavetas estão/permanecem *limp-a-d-as / limp-as.
the drawers are/remain *cleaned(REG) / cleaned(ATHEM)
‘The drawers are/remain clean.’
c.Absolute participles: only regular PTC allowed[ Limp-a-d-as / *Limp-as as gavetas ], o João pôde ir descansar.
[ cleaned(REG) / *cleaned(ATHEM) the drawers ] the João could go rest
‘The drawers having been cleaned, João could go rest.’
I propose a tentative analysis where the athematic PTC (2b) arises as a consequence of a fusion rule that targets v and the root. Whether or not that rule can be applied will depend on the size of a given PTC construction, which in turn determines how much structure is Spelled-Out. Specifically:

  • In absolute participles like (3c), v and the root are Spelled-Out separately, bleeding the context of application of the proposed fusion rule. Only a regular PTC can then be realized.
  • In adjectival participles like (3b), v and the root are part of the same Spell-Out domain, which allows for fusion to apply. As a consequence, an athematic PTC can be used in this construction.
  • In verbal passives like (3a), two derivations are possible. In one of these derivations, and the root are Spelled-Out separately, just as in absolute participles, hence why a regular PTC arises. In the other — equally convergent — derivation, v and the root are Spelled-Out together, just as in adjectival passives, hence why an athematic PTC arises.