LINGUIST List 28.4929

Sat Nov 25 2017

Review: Portuguese; General Linguistics; Historical Linguistics; Language Acquisition; Sociolinguistics: Martins, Carrilho (2016)

Editor for this issue: Clare Harshey <>

Date: 03-Jul-2017
From: Jason Doroga <>
Subject: Manual de linguística portuguesa
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Book announced at

EDITOR: Ana Maria Martins
EDITOR: Ernestina Carrilho
TITLE: Manual de linguística portuguesa
SERIES TITLE: Manuals of Romance Linguistics
PUBLISHER: De Gruyter Mouton
YEAR: 2016

REVIEWER: Jason Doroga,

REVIEWS EDITOR: Helen Aristar-Dry


The “Manual de linguística portuguesa” edited by Ana Maria Martins and Ernestina Carrilho is Volume 16 of the series Manuals of Romance Linguistics published by de Gruyter. The series editors seek to expand the contents of the “Lexikon der Romanistishen Linguistik” and “Romanische Sprachgeschichte” by integrating diachronic dimensions of European Portuguese (EP) with new developments in clinical linguistics, psycholinguistics, and digital humanities in order to give us a more complete view of Portuguese linguistics that extends beyond the more standard areas of phonology, morphology and syntax. This volume contains twenty-five Chapters that give a comprehensive and up-to-date description of research in EP linguistics. The mission with this volume, the editors write, is to combine ''abordagens panorâmicas con análises em profundidade de tópicos selecionados'' (p. 1). The volume as a whole shows a commitment to balancing theoretical approaches and provides both empirical and descriptive data from a variety of sources. 


The introductory essay provides an overview of the historical development of EP with a special emphasis on implications on modern dialectology. Following a standard division of Old Portuguese (up to end of 14th century), Middle Portuguese (15th-16th), Classic Period (17th-middle of 18th) and Modern Portuguese, the author provides a timeline for the principal changes in phonology, morphology, syntax and lexico-semantics. This chapter is an ideal introduction to the volume and provides a context for many of the subsequent chapters, which use comparative and diachronic perspectives to shed light on the modern language (e.g., Chapter 15 ''A colocação dos pronomes clíticos em sincronia e diacronia'').

Portuguese in contact with the languages of Africa and Asia is featured prominently at the beginning of the volume. Tjerk Hagemeijer (Chapter 2 ''O português em contacto em África'') treats the Portuguese presence in Africa, and Hugo C. Cardoso (Chapter 3 ''O português em contacto na Ásia e no Pacífico) discusses the Portuguese presence in Asia. Both authors treat not only the linguistic factors but also the social conditions of the contact situation.

The general topics of phonetics and sociolinguistic variation are taken up in the next two chapters. Celeste Rodrigues (Chapter 4 ''Variação sociolinguística'') discusses phonetic variation (e.g., realization of tonic vowels, atonic vowels and consonants in the onset position) in the context of sociolinguistic variation. The author affirms that the reduction of atonic vowels is one of the most salient features of dialectal variation in EP. The author rightfully claims that phonetic variation is best studied in the context of prosody and intonation, which is the focus of the next chapter. Here, Ana Isabel Mata and Helena Motiz (Chapter 5 ''Prosódia, variação e processamento automático'') present a panoramic view of studies in prosody in EP and focuses on the effects of individual and stylistic differences on prosodic patterns. 

Maria Antónia Mota (Chapter 6 ''Morfologia nas interfaces'') discusses morphology's interface with phonetics (e.g., vocalization of /l/ in plural nouns), syntax (e.g., agreement patterns in compound nouns), and semantics (e.g., verbal aspect and durativity). The author demonstrates that no component of the morphological system of EP is structured independently of phonetics, syntax and semantics. Rather, morphology is at the interface, encoding information from each of these dominions in the morphologic features of the language. Similar themes are picked up in Telmo Móia's contribution (Chapter 12 ''Semântica e pragmática''). Here, the author discusses the syntax-semantics interface (the author rightfully mentions that the semantic/pragmatic distinction is difficult to tease apart in many studies). Speakers and listeners rely on the syntax to construct meaning. For example, quantifiers such as ambos clear up the inherent ambiguity in the interpretation of the reciprocal phrase ‘um com o outro’. Likewise, the author demonstrates that the aspectual nature of a verb ultimately depends on the syntax and semantics of the entire phrase, not on the semantic meaning of the verb itself. Lastly, Ana Maria Martins' contribution (Chapter 22 ''O sistema responsivo: padrões de resposta a interrogativas polares e a asserções'') provides a proposal concerning the system of response to assertions and polar questions in EP that integrates elements of syntax, morphology and pragmatics. The author includes strategies in EP that are not used in Brazilian Portuguese such as reduplication of the verb (e.g., -O João ainda não saiu, pois não? -Saiu, saiu).

The next two chapters address recent innovations in the study of Portuguese lexicology. Raquel Amaro and Sara Mendes (Chapter 7 ''Lexicologia e linguística computacional'') claim that contextualizing the Generative Lexicon tradition (Pustejovksy 1995) within a computational linguistics framework allows for a more precise understanding of how lexical items are selected. The authors demonstrate how encoding of events and argument structures are depicted in programs such as Next, João Palo Silvestre (Chapter 8 ''Lexicografia'') provides a panorama of monolingual and bilingual dictionaries of EP. Specifically, the author considers various dictionaries published in Portugal and Brazil, and evaluates them based on the amount of linguistic information included such as etymology, argument structure and semantic change.

The next three chapters reflect areas of linguistics that have seen recent growth in the last decades. Amália Mendes (Chapter 9 ''Linguística de corpus e outros usos dos corpora em linguística'') addresses the latest innovations in corpus research in Portuguese - there is a long tradition of corpus linguistic for Portuguese, starting with the Português Fundamental corpus compiled by Cintra in the 1970s, long before corpus linguistics was a developed discipline. One of the main points the author makes is that corpus based studies are not tied to any one linguistic approach. The author suggests that many different theoretical approaches should rely on corpus based research. The chapter concludes with an overview of the different types of information most often included in a corpus (e.g., oral vs, written language, standard vs. non-standard forms).

Rita Marquilhas and Iris Hendrickx (Chapter 10 ''Avanços nas humanidades digitais'') consider the advances and challenges of conducting linguistic research from digitized texts. The first half of the article traces the history of Portugal's innovation in digitizing humanistic texts. The benefits of using digitized texts are indisputable, but explicit and consistent codification of relevant linguistic information remains a challenge. The second half of the chapter discusses innovation in tagging and representing for text sources encoded using the standards of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI). To conclude this section of the volume, João Costa, Maria João Freitas and Anabela Gonçalves (Chapter 11 ''Linguística clínica: alguns dados sobre o português'' discuss methods for assessing linguistic disorders and the types of intervention that best address them. The authors discuss the various ways in which clinical linguistics provides a window into the faculty of human language.

Armanda Costa (Chapter 13 ''Psicolinguística e ciência cognitiva'') places key facets of psycholinguistics such as cognitive processes of language processing within the context of EP. Specifically, the chapter focuses on aspects of Portuguese grammar that influence language processing, including the null-subject parameter and variable resolutions of ambiguous anaphoric relationships. Additionally, the author evaluates various hypotheses of language processing such as Grosz, Joshi and Weinstein's Centering Theory (1997) and tests the applicability of these theories in explaining language processing in EP.

The second half of the volume comprises articles dealing with syntax, semantics and phonology. Ana Maria Martins and João Costa (Chapter 14 ''Ordem dos constituintes frásicos: sujeitos invertidos; objetos antepostos'') address aspects of theticity, topicalization and focalization to explain word order variation in declarative sentences. The authors present an inventory of the unique syntactic, semantic and pragmatic properties of contrastive focus and topicalization in EP. They claim that the two processes are often confused in the literature, and present syntactic properties, such as placement of clitic pronouns and relative clauses, that may be used to distinguish the two processes.

There are four chapters that feature research on L1 acquisition of grammatical forms. João Costa, Alexandra Fiéis and Maria Lobo (Chapter 16 ''A acquisição dos pronomes clíticos no português L1'') summarize a series of studies that focus on the placement (proclisis and enclisis) and omission of clitic pronouns in L1 learners of Portuguese (e.g., Está a molhá-lo / Está a molhar-ø) (p. 434). The authors conclude that Portuguese children acquire native proficiency of clitic pronouns later than L1 learners of other Romance varieties such as French and Italian. Specifically, they overgeneralize the null-object parameter and omit the clitic in obligatory contexts such as adverbial and relative clauses. They also overgeneralize the contexts of enclisis in grammatical contexts that require proclisis such as negation (e.g., Penteou-se vs. *Não penteou-se). A crucial point this article makes is that a child is not only sensitive to the type of syntactic constructions that trigger proclisis, but must also rely on lexical knowledge to be able to determine if proclisis is required or optional.

Inês Duarte, Ana Lucía Santos and Anabela Gonçalves (Chapter 17 ''O infinitivo flexionado na gramática do adulto e na acquisição de L1'') study L1 acquisition of the personal infinitive (e.g., eu comer, tu comeres). They conclude that children are particularly sensitive to this construction and acquire it early, especially the personal infinitive in subordinate clauses introduced by the preposition ‘para’. The fact that the children produce personal infinitives ''precocemente'' (p. 475) belies the important fact that young children still do not always interpret the subject of the personal infinitive correctly before the age of 9-10 (Pires, Rothman and Santos 2011). For example, in the sentence ‘O Mickey ficou satisfeito por lavarem o carro’ (p. 476) children will often misinterpret the subject of the personal infinitive as Mickey. 

Maria Lobo (Chapter 21 ''Sujeitos nulos: gramática do adulto, aquisição de L1 e variação dialetal'') looks at the acquisition of the null subject parameter. The discussion synthesizes data from a number of studies that analyze acquisition and processing of null subjects and pronominal subjects. The author claims that though the traditional features of pro-drop are acquired early in L1 learners of Portuguese, the interpretation of null subjects and pronominal subjects is a late acquisition feature. Specifically, the processing of ambiguous antecedents (e.g., ‘O bombeiro disse ao polícia que ø/ele saltou’) produces the greatest difference between children and adult grammars. The chapter concludes with a discussion of dialects of EP that prefer overt subjects and appear to contradict Chomsky's 'Principle of Economy' (1981).

In the final acquisition study of the volume, Maria João Freitas (Chapter 25 ''A sílaba na gramática do adulto e na aquisição de língua materna'') presents the basics of Portuguese syllable structure and provides acquisition evidence to explain the sonority hierarchy of the Portuguese syllable. Relying on the Principle of Dissimilarity and the Sonority Principle, the author explains how L1 learners of Portuguese resolve problematic consonant clusters (e.g., pneu). For each problematic feature, the author provides acquisition data to test the phonological analysis proposed. 

By means of a careful survey of dialectal variation in spoken Portuguese, Maria Lobo (Chapter 18 ''O gerúndio flexionado no português dialetal'') traces the history of the inflected gerund (e.g.,’ eu cantando’, ‘tu cantandos’). The inflected gerund is limited to southern rural dialects and appears most often in finite temporal adverbial constructions. In a departure from standard EP, the inflected gerund allows for a disjunction between the subject of the gerund clause (which is often unexpressed) and the subject of the main clause. 

Madalena Colaço (Chapter 19 ''Especificidades das estruturas de coordenação: padrões de concordância'') describes agreement asymmetries in coordinated subjects and other coordinated nominal constituents. Specifically, the author claims that EP demonstrates two agreement patterns: full agreement (i.e., agreement in person, number and gender of both constituents) and partial agreement (i.e., agreement in only one constituent). The author concludes that the type of agreement pattern is determined by the syntax. Partial agreement is licensed in post-verbal coordinated subjects (e.g., 'Durante a cerimónia, discursou o presidente e o representate dos alunos') and in prenominal elements within coordinated constituents (e.g., 'Todos os livros e as revistas que comprei'). 

Anabela Gonçalves, Ernestina Carrilho and Sandra Pereira (Chapter 20 ''Predicados complexos numa perspetiva comparativa'') describe the semantic and syntactic properties of complex predicates in EP. They authors argue that the causative infinitival construction (i.e., fazer + infinitive) does not follow the same restructuring rules for other complex predicates. Crucially, EP allows for a wider variety of predicates that occur as a complement of the fazer + infinitive than other varieties of Romance. 

Rui Marques (Chapter 23 ''O modo conjuntivo'') develops a semantic approach to explain the selection of mood in EP. In the first half of the article, the author presents two traditional analyses that have been used to explain the distinction between indicative and subjunctive (i.e., realis/irrealis and assertion/non-assertion) but provides counterexamples that illustrate the shortcomings of these analyses. In the second half of the article, the author argues that propositional attitudes is what conditions mood selection. The author concludes that the subjunctive is excluded in cases where the propositional attitude expresses knowledge or positive belief. 

João Veloso (Chapter 24 ''O sistema vocálico e a redução e neutralização das vogais átonas'') discusses the phonetic inventory of tonic vowels vs. atonic vowels in EP. The author's treatment of the changes in these two groups of allophones sound changes is systematic and comprehensive and includes word stress and syllable structure as factors that influence the realization of the vowel. The author proposes that two frequent reduced vowels (e.g., the semi-open, central vowel and the closed, central vowel) should have phonemic status.


The central goal of this volume is to provide a panoramic overview of European Portuguese linguistics written in Portuguese by experts in the field. Without question, the twenty-five chapters presented in this volume achieve this goal. The authors illuminate different aspects of EP without simplifying or over-generalizing the state of affairs in order to tidy up conclusions. In fact, one of the strengths of the volume consists of demonstrating how EP in particular in indispensable to help clarify thorny conceptual aspects of Romance linguistics.

The editors have chosen a balanced selection of topics, representing a broad range of both traditional and modern lines of investigation, and throughout the volume individual authors recognize the importance of integrating a variety of approaches. It is commendable that the volume as a whole achieves a balance between theory and empirical data.

Though the chapters in a volume of this type may by necessity be described as overview articles, the majority of the contributions go beyond merely summarizing what we know about selected topics in Portuguese. The volume consistently shows the vitality of EP studies by addressing the compelling questions that still remain unanswered. Martins, for example, call for the need to study the socio-historical context of contact-induced phonetic change (Chapter 1), and Hagemeijer (Chapter 2) calls for the integration of substrate language and L2 acquisition theory for work on the varieties of Portuguese spoken in Africa. Other examples include new advances in speech pathology as a result of the Crosslinguistic Child Phonology Project - European Portuguese (Chapter 11). Lastly, it is worth noticing that studies on variation both at the micro-level (especially Chapters 4 and 21) and the macro-level are particularly well represented in the volume. As the editors note in the preface, the inclusion of studies that focus on variation have tended to focus more on Brazil than Portugal (p. 2). 

Though the editors make the claim that a comparative analysis of two closely related languages, such as EP and Galician, is not the focus of the volume, the chapters that are the most illuminating are the ones that include a comparative element. For example, Martins' contributions on the diachronic perspective of Portuguese (Chapter 1) and the placement of clitic pronouns (Chapter 15) demonstrate what we gain in our understanding of the structure of one language when we consider how (and why) it is similar or different from a related language. This holds true for the articles that treat dialectal variations within Portuguese (e.g., Brazilian and European) such as Rui Marques' contribution on the subjunctive mood and Ana Maria Martins' contribution on responses to assertions and polar questions.

The bibliographies that conclude each chapter list the highest quality scholarship available on each topic. The bibliographies balance foundational studies (e.g., Dalgado's pioneering work on Portuguese contact in Asia) with the latest scholarship available on each topic. Additionally, in many cases they provide foundational studies in languages other than Portuguese, making them useful to scholars working in Ibero-Romance linguistics and comparative Romance linguistics. The most recent on-line corpora included in Mendes' chapter on corpus linguistics as well as Rita Marquilhas and Iris Hendrickx' treatment on advances in digital humanities are particularly useful.

The editors have shown a sure hand in selecting the topics included in the volume. Of course, it is not possible for the editors to include every topic of interest to EP linguistics (a chapter on nasalization processes would have been welcome), a fact the editors are well aware of and address appropriately in the introduction (p. 2). Though the chapters contain a mix of traditional areas of inquiry (e.g., inflected infinitive, clitic placement, and the reduction of atonic vowels) with research areas that have grown in the last few decades (e.g., corpus linguistics, psycholinguistics), I found some of the chapters to be overdrawn. For example, though indisputably useful, some of the technical details for coding in TEI (Chapter 10) and digitizing a text for an on-line corpus (Chapter 9), seemed out of place in a survey volume of this type. It would have been illuminating to have a concluding Chapter in which the editors brought together main themes of the volume. 

In sum, this volume is a welcome addition to the excellent Manuals of Romance Linguistics series because of its high quality articles written by leading experts, its synthesis of material with special attention paid to compelling questions that remain unanswered and its comparative approach to highlight distinguishing features of EP.


Chomsky, Noam. 1981. Lectures on Government and Binding. Dordrecht, Foris.

Dalgado, Sebastião Rodolfo. 1900. Dialecto Indo-Português de Goa. Revista Lusitana 6. 63-84. 

Ernst, Gerhard, Martin-Dietrich Gleßgen, Christian Schmitt & Wolfang

Schweickard (eds.). 2003-2008. Romanische Sprachgeschichte. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 

Holtus, Günter, Michael Metzeltin & Christian Schmitt (eds.). 1988-2005. Lexikon der Romanistischen Linguistik. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Grosz, Barbara, Aravind K. Joshi & Scott Weinstein. 1995. Centering: A framework for modeling the local coherence of discourse. Computational Linguistics 21. 203-25. 

Pires, Acrisio, Jason Rothman & Ana Lucía Santos. 2011. L1 acquisition across Portuguese dialects: Modular and interdisciplinary interfaces as sources of explanation. Lingua 121 (4). 605-22.

Pustejovsky, James. 1995. The Generative Lexicon. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Rizzi, Luigi. 1978. A Restructuring rule in Italian syntax. In Samuel J. Keyser (ed.), Recent Transformational Studies in European Linguistics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 113-158.


Jason Doroga is an assistant professor of Spanish at Centre College. His research interests include historical syntax and morphology, semantics and pragmatics, and Spanish/Portuguese contact.

Page Updated: 25-Nov-2017