Acquisition in the context of language change

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Brazilian Portuguese (BP) has been described as having undergone a selective loss of null subjects, with the categorical maintenance of null expletives, and a limited possibility of referential null subjects in the third person. In the I-language of most literate adults, a range of referential null subjects is still possible, competing with the innovative weak pronouns. The present study will claim that core grammars do not admit morphological ‘doublets’, and will give evidence that pre-school children do not have pronouns competing with referential null subjects. These are argued to be acquired as a second grammar, through schooling. The maintenance of anaphoric null subjects is observed in written texts, the object of diachronic studies. The conclusion is that the only null subject licensed in BP core grammars is the non-referential null subject, namely expletive and indefinite subjects without the clitic se. The study will also claim that the null subject recovered through schooling is not the same as the prototypical null subject that was lost, but is still an object possible in Universal Grammar (UG).


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