The present study examines certain syntactic properties of the Brazilian variety of Portuguese (BP): 1) BP is a pro-drop language with instances of both null subjects and covert objects, and 2) BP exhibits several possible word orders. To determine the frequency of pro-drop and word-order variations, the CDP (The Portuguese Corpus) was used to provide samples of transitive, main clauses, which were then categorized based on whether or not they had null subjects and covert objects. The clauses were also categorized according to word order. In addition to providing samples, the corpus allowed for the comparison of four different registers of BP: academic, newspaper, fiction, and oral. The results of the present study demonstrated that null subjects are much more common than covert objects (29.4% and 2.3% respectively) and that register did significantly affect the frequency of pro-drop, with oral having the highest rate of pro-drop and newspaper the lowest. For word order, SVO was most common at 95.1% with the occurrences of other variations being too rare to reliably determine statistical significance. Different from pro-drop, register did not affect the frequency of different word orders. Word-order variations were not random, however, but were determined by topic and focus with old information (topic) generally occurring preverbally, and new information (focus) generally occurring in the most embedded position. The fact that this study effectively examined these syntactic features is significant, as most of the Portuguese syntactic research previous to the present study was specific to European Portuguese. The present study demonstrated a new methodology being successfully applied to a different dialect, but more than that, it demonstrated that a more empirical, data-driven approach to syntactic research is both possible and valuable, justifying the creation and use of large corpora for this type of research.



College and Department

Humanities; Linguistics and English Language



Date Submitted


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Brazilian Portuguese, pro-drop, null subject, word order, topic, focus, corpus

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Linguistics Commons