Study of linguistic principles and parameters

Research Projects:

The impersonalisation of the subject in Brazilian Portuguese (BP)

Description: The project focuses on the study of the several existent ways in Brazilian Portuguese of impersonalising the subject of sentences. In several of these strategies, there is promotion of the object to a high position in the sentence structure (sometimes of subject, sometimes of topic). The ergativity varies depending on the type of verb involved. Therefore, the project will be able to observe several phenomena (ergativity, topicality, and morphology) acting together. In this sense, the study of the impersonalisation of the subject will give us the opportunity to observe and investigate crucial aspects of the syntax of BP. As some of these impersonalisation strategies do not exist in European Portuguese and did not exist in BP until recently, this study also aims to record and, if possible, explain the linguistic change in progress.

Professor in charge: Marcello Modesto dos Santos (


Finite Control and Hyper-raising in Brazilian Portuguese: Consequences for the pattern of the Minimalist Program

Description: Based on the proposal by Ferreira (2000, 2004) and Rodrigues (2002, 2004) that referential (non-expletive, non-arbitrary) null subjects in Brazilian Portuguese should be analysed as a trace of A-movement, this project aims to investigate the empirical and theoretical implications of such an approach for the overall architecture of the language faculty, as conceived in the Minimalist Program, with special attention to the Control Theory.

 Professor in charge: Jairo Morais Nunes (


Specification of Agreement Features and Syntactic Computations

Description: The project aims to investigate the empirical and theoretical consequences of different specifications of phi-features in functional categories of Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese for the syntactic computation, under the Agree-based model of Chomsky (2000, 2001, 2004, 2008).

 Professor in charge: Jairo Morais Nunes (


Formation of Words, Argumental Structure, and Geometry of Features from the perspective of Distributed Morphology

Description: This project aims to enlarge the scope of Distributed Morphology studies on Linguistic research in Brazil. We will do this through discussions on word formation processes, concatenative or not, of natural languages, as well as on issues related to the notion of argumental structure and the idea of geometry of features to pronominal and inflectional systems of natural languages, always justified by the model of Distributed Morphology. The studies focus on languages such as Brazilian Portuguese (BP), Peninsular Spanish (PS), English, Japanese, and Hebrew, investigating, in particular, issues such as prefixation of denial and repetition on BP, prefixation of formality in Japanese, suffixation to the formation of denominal verbs, also in BP, nominalisations in BP and in Hebrew of augmentative and diminutive terms in BP and other Romance languages, formations of the blending and truncation types in BP and PS, issues related to the structure of argumentative verbal, nominal, and adjectival predicates, in addition to issues related to the detailing of the set of features of the inflectional system of BP. With this work, we intend to identify, in the languages in focus, more general properties of natural languages.

Professor in charge: Ana Paula Scher (


Inflected infinitives and control theory

Description: This project aims at the description of the contexts of use of the inflected infinitive in Brazilian Portuguese, especially in control structures, aiming to the verification or suggestions to amend the proposed explanation of the phenomenon of control that currently exist within the Chomskyan minimalist program.

Professor in charge: Marcello Modesto dos Santos (


Interaction Between Tense and Modality in the Semantics of Natural Languages


Description: The project seeks to understand how modal, temporal and aspectual ingredients interact in the derivation of the meaning of sentences of natural languages. The main goal is to develop compositional semantic analyses for several intensional constructions, based on an ontology that includes possible worlds, time intervals and events. The constructions to be investigated include conditionals, modal verbs, verbs of propositional attitude, and imperfective morphology.

Professor in charge: Marcelo Barra Ferreira (


Subordination versus nominalization in Amerindian Languages

Description: The Project studies many Brazilian indigenous languages, such as Karitiana (Tupian family, Arikém subfamily), Wayoro (Tupian family, Tupari subfamily) and Arara (Karib family), aiming to understand the structure of nominalized and non-nominalized subordinate clauses. There is a current debate among Americanists about the status of subordinate clauses in indigenous languages. Some linguists assume that the absence of finiteness in many dependent clauses is evidence of nominalization (Campbell 2012), even in the absence of nominalizers. Others, like us, argue that in spite of the absence of tense and agreement in many of these clause types, there are other functional heads such as aspect, valence change morphology and negation, not to mention adverbs, that are active and corroborate the hypothesis that nominalization is not necessarily playing a role in subordinate clauses.  Another related theme studied in this Project is the structure of the clausal complement of copular verbs in the three languages investigated, some of which receive adverbializing morphology.

Professor in charge: Luciana Storto (

Collaborators: Patience Epps (Universidade do Texas), Spike Guildea (Universidade de Oregon), Ana Vilacy Galúcio (Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi), Norvin Richards (MIT).