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Brazilian Bare Phrases and Referentiality: Evidences from an Experiment

Kayron Bevilaqua, Roberta Pires de Oliveira


This paper experimentally investigates the denotation of the bare singulars (BS) and bare plural noun phrases (BP) in Brazilian Portuguese (BrP). The first section reviews two theories concerning the semantics of the bare nouns in BrP: the count theory according to which bare nouns are countable (plural sums); and the mass theory, which proposes that there is a difference between these bare nouns, since only the BP is a count noun. The second section presents the experiment. It explores the relation between the semantics of BSs and BPs in a mass context. 64 participants were asked to perform quantity judgments (on number, volume, both number and volume or none) in a comprehension task. The task relied on visual and hearing information. The results show that BSs allow preferentially comparison by volume scales, though they accept the count reading. The presence of the plural morpheme ([-s]) only allows quantity judgments based on number. Thus, the experiment failed to support the count hypothesis that BSs are number neutral (SCHMITT; MUNN, 1999; MUNN; SCHMITT, 2005; MÜLLER, 2002), and corroborates Pires de Oliveira & Rothstein's (2011) mass hypothesis. Relying on Rothstein & Pires de Oliveira (in press), we propose that the morpho-syntactic plural mark imposes counting and that the cardinal reading of the BS is derived from measuring. 


Bare singular; Bare plural; Count/Mass.

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