Processing Coercion in Brazilian Portuguese: Grinding Objects and Packaging Substances
In this paper, we explore the interpretation of mass to count and count to mass coercion in Brazilian Portuguese. One interesting feature of Brazilian Portuguese (as opposed to other dialects of Portuguese and other Romance languages) is the productive use of bare singulars in argument position (that is, count nouns that are not preceded by a determiner as in Eu comprei livro ‘I bought book(s)’). The goal of this paper is twofold. The first goal is to explore the interpretation of bare singulars. In a reading time task, I investigated whether the grinding interpretation of bare singulars (João viu camisa rasgada no chão ‘João saw (a/some) shirt(s) torn on the floor’) is costlier than a non-grinding interpretation (João viu camisa dobrada no chão ‘João saw shirt folded on the floor’). This is predicted by rule-based lexical shifts hypotheses according to which the non-grinding interpretation is the basic interpretation and the grinding interpretation is derived from it. The second goal is to investigate whether mass nouns in count contexts (packaging) such as Eu comprei três cervejas ontem ‘I bought three beers yesterday’ are costlier than count nouns in the same syntactic environment (Eu comprei três laranjas ontem ‘I bought three oranges yesterday’). In both studies, no significant effect was found when contrasting coerced and non-coerced uses of count and mass nouns. I suggest that this provides supporting evidence in favor of lexical pragmatics approaches over lexical rule-based theories.
KeywordsGrinding Packaging Brazilian Portuguese Count/mass distinction
I would like to thank Cristiane Oliveira (for technical support and for her help in the process of running this experiment) and Steven Frisson and Lyn Frazier, for the inspiration for this work.
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