Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Studies in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics

Editor-in-Chief: Face, Timothy L.

See all formats and pricing
More options …

Competing motivations and number variation

Roberto Gomes Camacho / Mircia Hermenegildo Salomão
Published Online: 2015-08-25 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/shll-2015-0011


In this paper, we submit data on variable plural marking in non-verbal predicates, preceded or not by a copula, to sociolinguistic treatment. The data was extracted from a corpus collected in the northwestern region of the state of São Paulo, in Brazil. The study was intended to examine whether variable plural marking in non-verbal predicates such as nouns, adjectives and past participles can be explained either by exclusively formal or exclusively functional constraints, or by the interaction between both, that is, by competing motivations. Results show that neither functional nor formal motivations alone rule these types of phenomena, which happen to be strongly constrained by a specific external factor: years of schooling.

Keywords: formal constraint; functional constraint; competing motivations; non-verbal predicate; nominal agreement


  • Braga, Maria Luíza. 1977. A concordância de número no sintagma nominal no Triângulo Mineiro. Rio de Janeiro: Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro MA thesis.Google Scholar

  • Camacho, Roberto Gomes. 2008. Motivações formais e funcionais da marcação de pluralidade no português falado na região de São José do Rio Preto. FAPESP Research Report.

  • Camacho, Roberto Gomes. 2013. Da linguística formal à linguística social. São Paulo: Parábola.Google Scholar

  • Du Bois, John. 1985. Competing motivations. In John Haiman (ed.), Iconicity in syntax, 342–315. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar

  • García, Erica C. 1985. Shifting variation. Lingua 67. 189–224.Google Scholar

  • Givón, Talmy. 1990. Syntax: A functional-typological introduction. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar

  • Givón, Talmy. 2009. The genesis of syntactic complexity: Diachrony, ontogeny, neuro-cognition, evolution. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar

  • Gonçalves, Sebastião Carlos L. & Luciani E. Tenani. 2008. Problemas teórico-metodológicos na elaboração de um sistema de transcrição de dados interacionais: o caso do projeto ALIP Amostra Linguística do Interior Paulista. Gragoatá 25. 165–184.Google Scholar

  • Guy, Gregory. 1981. Linguistic variation in Brazilian Portuguese. Aspects of phonology, syntax and language history. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia dissertation.Google Scholar

  • Guy, Gregory. 1996. For8m and function in linguistic variation. In Gregory Guy, Crawford Feagin, Deborah Schiffrin & John Baugh (eds.), Towards a social science of language. Papers in honor of William Labov, Volume 1: Variation and change in language and society, 121–252. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar

  • Guy, Gregory & Ana Zilles. 2007. Sociolinguística quantitativa: Instrumental de análise. São Paulo: Parábola.Google Scholar

  • Haiman, John. 1985. Iconic and economic motivation. Language 59. 781–819.Google Scholar

  • Hochberg, Judith. 1986. Functional compensation for /s/ deletion in Puerto Rican Spanish. Language 62(3). 609–621.Google Scholar

  • Kiparsky, Paul. 1972. Explanation in phonology. In Stanley Peters (ed.), Goals of linguistic theory, 189–227. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar

  • Labov, William. 1972. Sociolinguistic patterns. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar

  • Labov, William. 1978. Where does the linguistic variable stop? A response to Beatriz Lavandera. Sociolinguistic Working Paper 44. 1–22.Google Scholar

  • Labov, William. 1987. The overestimation of functionalism. In René Dirven & Vilém Fried (eds.), Functionalism in linguistics, 311–32. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar

  • Labov, William. 1994. Principles of linguistic change: Internal factors. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar

  • Lavandera, Beatriz. R. 1978. Where does the sociolinguistic variable stop? Language in Society 7. 171–82.Google Scholar

  • Lefebvre, Claire. 1981. Variation in plural marking: The case of Cuzco Quechua. In David Sankoff & Henrietta Cedergren (eds.), Variation omnibus, 73–84. Edmonton: Linguistic Research Inc.Google Scholar

  • Lemle, Miriam & Anthony J. Naro. 1977. Competências básicas do português. Rio de Janeiro: MOBRAL e Fundação Ford.Google Scholar

  • Poplack, Shanna. 1980. Deletion and disambiguation in Puerto Rican Spanish. Language 56(2). 371–385.Google Scholar

  • Romaine, Suzanne. 1981. The status of variable rules in sociolinguistic theory. Journal of Linguistics 17. 93–119.Google Scholar

  • Salomão, Mircia H. 2010. A variação de pluralidade nas estruturas predicativas da variedade falada na região de São José do Rio Preto. São Paulo: Universidade Estadual Paulista MA thesis.Google Scholar

  • Sankoff, David. 1982. Sociolinguistic method and linguistic theory. In L. Jonathan Cohen (ed.), Logic, methodology and philosophy of science 6, 677–689. Amsterdam: North-Holland.Google Scholar

  • Sankoff, David. 1988. Variable rules. In Ulrich Ammon, Norbert Dittmar & Klaus J. Mattheir (eds.), Sociolinguistics, 984–987. New York: Walter de Gruyter.Google Scholar

  • Sankoff, David, Sali Tagliamonte & Eric Smith. 2005. Goldvarb X: A variable rule application for Macintosh and Windows. Toronto: Department of Linguistics, University of Toronto. http://individual.utoronto.ca/tagliamonte/goldvarb.html.Google Scholar

  • Saussure, Ferdinand de. 1997 [1916]. Curso de linguística geral. São Paulo: Cultrix.Google Scholar

  • Scherre, Marta Maria P. 1988. Reanálise da concordância nominal em português. Rio de Janeiro: Universidade Federal Rio de Janeiro dissertation.Google Scholar

  • Scherre, Marta Maria P. 1989. Sobre a atuação do princípio de saliência fônica na concordância nominal. In Fernando Tarallo (ed.), Fotografias sociolinguísticas, 301–332. Campinas: Pontes/Editora da UNICAMP.Google Scholar

  • Scherre, Marta Maria P. 1991. A concordância de número nos predicativos e nos particípios passivos. Organon 18(5). 52–70.Google Scholar

  • Scherre, Marta Maria P. 1994. Aspectos da concordância de número no português do Brasil. Revista Internacional de Língua Portuguesa. Norma e Variação do Português 12. 37–49.Google Scholar

  • Scherre, Marta Maria P. 1998. Paralelismo linguístico. Revista de Estudos da Linguagem 7(2). 29–59.Google Scholar

  • Scherre, Marta Maria P. 2001. Phrase-level parallelism effect on noun phrase number agreement. Language Variation and Change 13. 91–107.Google Scholar

  • Scherre, Marta Maria P. & Anthony J. Naro. 1991. Marking in discourse: Birds of a feather. Language Variation and Change 3. 23–32.Google Scholar

  • Scherre, Marta Maria P. & Anthony J. Naro. 1992. The serial effect on internal and external variables. Language Variation and Change 4. 1–13.Google Scholar

  • Scherre, Marta Maria P. & Anthony J. Naro. 2003. Análise quantitativa e tópicos de interpretação do varbrul. Introdução à sociolinguística. In Maria C. Mollica & Maria Luiza Braga (orgs.), O tratamento da variação, 147–177. São Paulo: Contexto.Google Scholar

  • Scherre, Marta Maria P. & Anthony J. Naro. 2013. Sociolinguistic correlates of negative evaluation: Variable concord in Rio de Janeiro. Working Papers in Linguistics (online) 2. 181–190.Google Scholar

  • Steiner, Richard C. 1996. The history of the Ancient Hebrew modal system and Labov’s rule of Compensatory Structural Change. In Gregory Guy, Crawford Feagin, Deborah Schiffrin & John Baugh (eds.), Towards a social science of language. Papers in honor of William Labov, Volume 1: Variation and change in language and society, 253–262. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar

  • The Leipzig Glossing Rules: Conventions for Interlinear Morpheme-by-Morpheme Glosses, edited by Department of Linguistics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Bernard Comrie, Martin Haspelmath) and by the Department of Linguistics of the University of Leipzig (Balthasar Bickel), http://www.eva.mpg.de/lingua/resources/glossing-rules.php, Leipzig, 12. Sept. 2008 (download: Oct. 2008).

  • Terrel, Tracy. 1975. Functional constraints on deletion of word-final /s/ in Cuban Spanish. Berkeley Linguistics Society 1. 431–437.Google Scholar

  • Weiner, E. Judith & William Labov. 1983. Constraints on the agentless passive. Journal of Linguistics 19. 29–58.Google Scholar

About the article

Published Online: 2015-08-25

Published in Print: 2015-09-01

Citation Information: Studies in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics, Volume 8, Issue 2, Pages 285–315, ISSN (Online) 2199-3386, ISSN (Print) 1939-0238, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/shll-2015-0011.

Export Citation

©2015 by De Gruyter Mouton.Get Permission

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in