Chapter published in:Studies on Variation in Portuguese
Edited by Pilar P. Barbosa, Maria da Conceição de Paiva and Celeste Rodrigues
[Issues in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics 14] 2017
► pp. 154–175
Variable use of strong preterites
A sociolinguistic and theoretical approach
This paper examines a particular case of variable syncretism in the Minho region in Portugal, involving the 1st person singular (1sg) and 3rd person singular (3sg) forms of “strong” preterits of the verbs estar ‘be-stative’, ter ‘have’, fazer ‘do’ and ser /ir ‘be’/‘go’. These forms can be levelled, affecting the 1st or the 3rd person. Fifty interviews from a socially stratified corpus of the relevant dialect were examined by running a mixed effect binominal analysis, which identified as main predictors the factors subject expression, verb and level of education. Moreover, there is a difference between estar/ter/fazer ‘be-stative/have/do’ and ser/ir ‘be/go’. In the latter case, only one form is used (the 3rd person form foi), while in the case of estar/ter/fazer ‘be-stative/have/do’ levelling can be realized by either the form for 1sg or 3sg. This inter-linguistic variation is analysed following the “late insertion” model of Distributed Morphology (Halle & Marantz, 1993). We develop an account of these agreement levelling effects that is based on the interaction between the internal syntax of strong preterites and the late insertion of underspecified functional Vocabulary Items. We propose a derivation of the different forms in the standard dialect and then we offer an analysis of levelling where intra-speaker variation is tied to the probabilistic application of feature deleting Impoverishment operations along the lines of Nevins and Parrott (2010). Inter-speaker variation is due to different choices as to which feature sets are subject to Impoverishment: the features for Person or T. For estar/ter/fazer ‘be-stative/have/do’ these two operations yield different outputs (in the case of ter, /teve/ and /tive/, respectively). For ser/ir ‘be/go’ the resulting forms are homophonous, namely /foj/ in both cases.
Keywords: verb morphology, strong preterites, paradigm levelling, distributed morphology
Published online: 02 November 2017
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