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Infinitivo y sujeto en portugués y español: un estudio empírico de los infinitivos adverbiales con sujeto explícito

Book - Dissertation

Infinitive and subject in Portuguese and Spanish. An empirical study on adverbial infinitives with explicit subjects. The main goal of my dissertation is to empirically investigate Portuguese and Spanish infinitival constructions with specified subjects in adverbial contexts, on the basis of statistical analyses of both corpus and experimental data. Within a functional-cognitive paradigm, the first three chapters offer a state of the art on three theoretical issues that are relevant for these constructions: 1) the flexible nature of the infinitive, presenting both verbal and nominal behaviour, 2) the subject as a multifaceted concept, being prototypically the intersection of Agent and Topic, 3) adverbial clauses as a heterogeneous group of constructions showing more or less syntactic-semantic autonomy with respect to the main clause. The three theoretical chapters are followed by two extensive empirical chapters which form the main body of this dissertation: after giving an overview of the literature on the construction under study, these chapters offer a sound and innovating empirical analysis. The first study focuses on the use of the Portuguese inflected infinitive in adverbial contexts in which the uninflected infinitive is equally well-formed (i.e. in cases of co-reference between the main subject and the infinitival subject), as in: Vamos à escola para aprender / aprendermos coisas novas. We-go to school in-order-to learn.INF / learn.INF.3PL things new U+2018We go to school in order to learn new things.U+2019 Results from a multivariate corpus analysis are compared with results from a self-paced reading experiment. It turns out that the use of the inflected infinitive in these contexts can be accounted for 1) by reduced mental accessibility of the infinitival subject, 2) by the syntactic-semantic autonomy of the clause and 3) by the explicitly verbal nature of the infinitive: when subject accessibility is reduced, when the infinitival clause has a more autonomous status and when the infinitive shows explicitly verbal marking, the use of the inflected form is favoured over the uninflected infinitive. The second case study offers an extensive comparative corpus study on Spanish and Portuguese infinitives with proper subjects, as in the following examples respectively: Al entrar Juan, todos se levantaron. (Sp) At-the enter-INF John, all REFL they-stood-up U+2018When John entered, everyone stood upU+2019 Escrevi uma carta para eles cá estarem a tempo. (Ptg) Write-I a letter for they here be-INF.3PL on time U+2018I wrote a letter so that they would be here on timeU+2019 Both constructions differ from the start in that the subject in Spanish tends to be placed after the infinitive, while in Portuguese they are usually placed before the infinitive. In addition, the Portuguese infinitive is obligatorily inflected. In accordance with this, the corpus analysis shows that, these constructions turn out to be more clause-like in Portuguese as compared to Spanish: the Portuguese constructions present more prototypical subjects (e.g. more topical and more agentive) and infinitives closer to the verbal prototype (e.g. more dynamic, and with more explicitly verbal characteristics as the use in verbal periphrases), while Spanish infinitives with proper subjects are more nominal in nature. Moreover, the Portuguese constructions tend to be more complex than their Spanish counterparts (e.g. in terms of numbers of words). Therefore, these Portuguese infinitival constructions turn out to be more serious competitors with finite adverbial clauses than the Spanish ones. On a more general level, this dissertation gives insight in the flexible (i.e. more verb-like or more noun-like) behaviour of the infinitive in different languages: even in two closely related languages as Spanish and Portuguese, the infinitive has different preferences as to a more verbal or more nominal behaviour.
Publication year:2012