UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Functional categorization parameters : argumenthood with functional heads other than D in Carioca Brazilian Portuguese and Pirahã Oliveira Salles, Raiane


This dissertation examines the functional architecture of nominal constructions in two languages: Carioca Brazilian Portuguese (BrP; Indo-European) and Pirahã (Muran). Both languages introduce empirical problems for the view that nominal phrases must be headed by determiners to be arguments of verbs, since both languages have arguments without determiners. I argue that determiners are not universally needed for argumenthood, and that arguments can be licensed by other functional categories. I argue that cross-linguistic variation in the nominal domain can be explained in terms of three factors: which features are grammatically active in the nominal spine, and how and where these features associate with the spine. Crucially, I postulate that nominal constructions are licensed as arguments when all functional features in the derivation are valued. I claim that in Carioca BrP and Pirahã, the functional category that forms arguments is Class. I further argue that the Class phrase is headed by gender features in Carioca BrP and by noun class features in Pirahã. In Carioca BrP, gender marking is obligatory and triggers agreement with almost every other category in the nominal domain. I argue that this is evidence that a valued gender feature associates with the lowest functional head in the nominal spine, forming ClassPs. Number marking, on the other hand, is optional. Thus, Carioca BrP allows bare numberless nominals in argument position, which get number neutral interpretations. If a [+pl] number feature is present in the derivation, it is obligatorily spelled out in the form of a clitic plural marker that needs a higher functional head – a D-like category – to host it. I also argue that Class alone can license arguments in Pirahã. I show that noun class features are active in the nominal system, as evidenced by the pronominal forms of the language. Treating gender and noun class as analogous categories, I claim that Pirahã valued noun class features also associate with a Class head. Hence, ClassPs are licensed as arguments in this language as well. I conclude by showing that the analysis has the potential to account for argumenthood cross-linguistically, using English, French, and Dene Sųłiné as examples.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International