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  • Brazilian Portuguese and the null subject parameter ed. by Mary Aizawa Kato, Esmeralda Vailati Negrão
  • Kleanthes K. Grohmann
Brazilian Portuguese and the null subject parameter. Ed. by Mary Aizawa Kato and Esmeralda Vailati Negrão. (Editionen der Iberoamericana/Ediciones de Iberoamericana: Serie B, Sprachwissenschaft/Lingüística 4.) Madrid: Iberoamericana, and Frankfurt: Vervuert, 2000. Pp. 270. ISBN 3893548831. €44.99.

This collection of papers deals exactly with what the title promises and does so at an interesting point in time. On the one hand, the power of the principles-and-parameters theory allowed linguists to express variation among closely related languages very nicely, and this has been done increasingly over the past two decades within the Romance family and, more recently, specifically between European and Brazilian Portuguese. The null subject parameter, on the other hand, is one of the parameters par excellence, [End Page 807] with an ever-increasing amount of evidence for both its existence (qua best studied parameter) and its role in the bigger picture of the principles-and-parameters approach (e.g. by permitting the subsuming of a variety of apparently unconnected grammatical properties under its activation). Mary A. Kato succinctly summarizes the connection between the two in her ‘Preface’ (7–16) and draws connections to the multifaceted topics discussed in the contributions (concerning ‘rich’ vs. ‘poor’ inflection, binding properties, and developmental and diachronic issues).

‘The loss of the “avoid pronoun” principle in Brazilian Portuguese’ (17–36) by M. Eugênia L. Duarte discusses parametric change related to the development of Brazilian Portuguese from a null to a nonnull subject language and ties it to the loss of VS order, which distinguishes Brazilian Portuguese from the other Romance (null subject) languages.

Also trying to reinterpret the ‘avoid pronoun’ principle, Marilza de Oliveira compares ‘The pronominal subject in Italian and Brazilian Portuguese’ (37–53), that is, the alternation between overt and covert subjects and the possibility of their complementary distribution.

‘Visible subjects and invisible clitics in Brazilian Portuguese’ (55–73) interest Sonia M. L. Cyrino, M. Eugênia L. Duarte, and Mary A. Kato, who propose to relate strong pronouns to referentiality and weak pronouns to ‘deficient’ referentiality. In the course of the discussion they look at English pronouns as well as differences in the pronominal system between European and Brazilian Portuguese, and they consider diachronic as well as developmental aspects.

Luciene J. Simões investigates issues in language acquisition with ‘Null subjects in Brazilian Portuguese: Developmental data from a case study’ (75–103). This study fits in with the rich literature on early null subjects and offers with Brazilian Portuguese yet another language that supports the view that children exhibit a highly constrained type of null category in subject position.

Esmeralda V. Negrão and Evani Viotti consider ‘Brazilian Portuguese as a discourse-oriented language’ (105–25) in light of new evidence they provide, arguing that the weakening of the inflectional paradigm is not responsible for the decrease of null pronominal subjects. The authors argue further that three main facts about Brazilian Portuguese can be explained only if it is assumed that it is a discourse-oriented language: asymmetries in the distribution of overt and covert subjects, some scope phenomena, and certain wh-extraction possibilities.

‘Main and embedded null subjects in Brazilian Portuguese’ (127–45) are the focus of Maria C. Figueiredo Silva’s contribution. Silva argues that Brazilian Portuguese is a partial pro-drop language distribution of lexical pronouns and empty categories in finite subject positions.

The role of ‘Null subjects without “rich” agreement’ (147–74) is explored by Marcello Modesto. Concentrating on Brazilian Portuguese and Chinese, Modesto reaches the conclusion that there is not always a tight relationship between agreement and the licensing of null arguments.

Rosane de Andrade Berlinck’s paper is ‘Brazilian Portuguese VS order: A diachronic analysis’ (175–94). Looking at the two properties in the history of Brazilian Portuguese, she focuses on the second part of the question—what kind of null subject and what kind of subject inversion has been lost.

Helena Britto examines...


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