A distinct aspectual analysis of predicative possession in Brazilian Portuguese

Scott A. Schwenter, Kendra V. Dickinson


We provide an aspectual analysis of Brazilian Portuguese predicative possessives, ter ('have') NP vs. estar com ('to be with') NP, which have been analyzed as denoting permanent versus temporary possession, respectively. Data include 20th century tokens of estar com NP (n=553) and ter NP (n=2976) from Davies' Corpus do Português. These data show that both possessive constructions can occur with the same temporal/aspectual reference and possessum, but that ter NP has a 0.55 type-token ratio while estar com NP shows significantly lower (p<0.01) productivity (0.41). An online experimental survey in which we manipulated the possessum and the duration of the possession was designed and responded to by over 200 native Brazilian participants. Results show that while both forms are possible in all contexts they are nevertheless sensitive to the duration of the possession, thus suggesting that the association with permanent versus temporary possession is pragmatic in nature. We propose that estar com NP's possessive interval is co-extensive with the reference interval supplied by context, while ter NP's possessive interval is a superinterval of the reference interval, like progressive and imperfective aspects, respectively (Deo 2009).


predicative possession; aspect; experimental methods; Brazilian Portuguese

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.3765/plsa.v5i1.4702

Copyright (c) 2020 Scott A. Schwenter, Kendra V. Dickinson

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