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Differential Object Marking in diachrony: the case of Brazilian Portuguese

Sonia Cyrino, Monica-Alexandrina Irimia


It is usually assumed that animate direct objects are generally not marked in Brazilian Portuguese. Several diachronic studies have nevertheless concluded that a-marking on direct objects, which is homophonous to the dative (just like Differential Object Marking in other Romance varieties), was possible from the 16th to 18th centuries and then it was lost. Based on synchronic Brazilian Portuguese data we observe that, in fact, the decay is not complete and there is variation in the use of that a before direct objects, the marking being obligatory before [+animate] complements in certain constructions, among which coordination and comparatives. We situate Brazilian Portuguese within the larger Romance Differential Object Marking picture. Theoretically, we approach the Brazilian Portuguese data by considering an analysis that connects Differential Object Marking to a licensing condition beyond Case: an independent licensing condition will be shown to be necessary for certain classes of direct objects.


Differential Object Marking; internal argument licensing; Brazilian Portuguese

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