Ana Lúcia Santos (Universidade de Lisboa)

Acquisition of control in a language with inflected infinitives

In this presentation, I revisit the problem of the acquisition of control, considering recent theories of control, the specific problem of control with inflected infinitives in European Portuguese and new experimental data.

Both an A-movement analysis of control (Hornstein, 1999) and a smuggling analysis of subject control with promise-type verbs (Belletti & Rizzi, 2013) predict that the acquisition of object control will happen earlier than the acquisition of subject control with ditransitives (promise-type verbs). This is in line with the results presented since the seminal work of C. Chomsky (1969).

In this presentation, I start by presenting experimental evidence that leads to question the predictions in this previous literature: at 3 and 4 years, children acquiring European Portuguese still do not perform target-like in object control structures. This evidence comes from elicited production data (Santos, Gonçalves & Hyams, 2016) and is confirmed by an elicited imitation experiment applied to preschoolers; the same results are in line with comprehension results presented by Agostinho (2014), Agostinho, Santos & Duarte (2018). Interestingly, some of the problems with object control verbs in the elicited production experiment are directly connected to the availability of inflected infinitives in Portuguese.

In fact, the problem of (the acquisition of) control is particularly complex in European Portuguese, a language that allows inflected infinitives under object control verbs: even though inflected infinitive complements are generally not obligatory control contexts, under object control verbs inflected infinitives maintain an obligatory control interpretation (Modesto, 2010; Duarte, Santos & Gonçalves 2016). Some suggest that inflected infinitives in obligatory control contexts may signal a particular type of control reading: partial control (Modesto, 2010 for Brazilian Portuguese; see also discussion in Sheehan, 2018 for European Portuguese). We know that children spontaneously produce some inflected infinitives at very early stages (Santos et al., 2013) and that children produce inflected infinitives specifically under object control verbs (elicited production data presented by Santos, Gonçalves & Hyams, 2016); but we also know that adult-like comprehension of the inflected infinitive is delayed in contrast to knowledge of its distribution (Pires, Rothman & Santos, 2011).

I therefore present the results of two experiments applied to 60 children between 4 and 5 years and aiming at determining (i) the existence of a bias favoring object control readings with ditransitive verbs, including novel verbs; (ii) whether this bias is affected by the presence of overt inflection in the embedded infinitive. The experiments test children’s interpretation of sentences with object control verbs and novel verbs (pseudowords) in object control frames and manipulates inflection in the infinitive. Both the rates of object control answers and reaction times are analyzed. The results confirm that even though children present a bias towards object control, confirmed with novel verbs, this bias is stronger in adults (and independent from the presence of inflection in the embedded infinitive, at least in the types of sentences tested), contrary to expectations.


Ana Maria Carvalho (University of Arizona)

Debordering, rebordering, and the exclusion of minority dialects: The case of Portuguese in Uruguay

In this talk, I discuss my research on the Uruguayan-Brazilian border, where one finds a large population of speakers of Uruguayan Portuguese, representing a typical case where the movement of national boundaries produced bilingual linguistic minorities. After contextualizing the situation from a sociolinguistic viewpoint, I turn to my latest findings about the recent inclusion of standard Brazilian Portuguese in public signage, soundscape, and the classroom in urban border communities in Uruguay, domains where Spanish was the only code conventionally used. I claim that the presence of standard Portuguese in these public spaces, while disrupting the traditional diglossic role of Spanish as the prestigious language in a process of debordering, creates new borders by excluding Uruguayan Portuguese from said domains. Rooted in a centralization-peripheralization dynamics, this process of rebordering exacerbates existing linguistic inequalities.