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Null objects are ellipsis in Brazilian Portuguese

Sonia Cyrino and Ruth Lopes
From the journal The Linguistic Review

Abstract

Brazilian Portuguese (BP) is known to license anaphoric null objects (ANO), that is, null objects with a linguistic antecedent. It also licenses VP ellipsis (VPE), with auxiliaries, modals and main verbs, the latter a case of V-stranding VPE (V-VPE), the one with which we will be concerned. Although ANOs and V-VPE may have identical surface strings in BP, we propose that they do not have the same structure. We argue that ANOs in BP are cases of DP ellipsis, and they present four properties that have been associated with (VP) ellipsis in the literature: a) availability of strict/sloppy readings (Ross, 1967. Constraints on variables in syntax. Cambridge, MA: MIT dissertation); b) structural parallelism between the antecedent and the elided string (Fiengo and May 1994. Indices and identity. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press); c) formal licensing by a functional category immediately c-commanding the elided string (Lobeck 1995. Ellipsis: Functional heads, licensing, and identification. Oxford: Oxford University Press); and d) disjunctive E-type readings (Simons 1996. Disjunction and anaphora. Proceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory 6. 245–260; Simons 2001. On issues in the semantics and pragmatics of disjunction. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University dissertation; Sakamoto 2013. Beyond sloppy identity of elliptic arguments: An interim report. Paper presented at the LingLunch, University of Connecticut. November 5). We then present evidence for an analysis of the ANO as a base-generated empty phrase marker that will be reconstructed in LF. We also propose that ANOs and VPE in BP are licensed by a lexicalized aspectual head, as a consequence of the loss of generalized verb movement in the language.

Funding statement: This research has been funded by the following research grants: Brazilian CNPq – Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (research grant 303742/2013-5) and FAPESP- Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (research grant 2012/06078-9) for the first author, and CNPq (research grant 307476/2013-8) for the second author.

Acknowledgements

Parts of this paper have been presented at the Going Romance Conference 2012, Catholic University of Louvain, KU Leuven, at the 39th Incontro de Grammatica Generativa (IGG39, 2013), University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, and at the 44th Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages, New York University (2014). We thank the audiences as well as two reviewers for their questions and comments that helped improve this work. The remaining problems are our own responsibility.

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Published Online: 2016-8-2
Published in Print: 2016-11-1

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