University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


This paper analyzes the influence of common ground (Clark 1996, Stalnaker 2002) on the variable use of Wh-interrogatives in Brazilian Portuguese, in which four different structures are employed with semantic-pragmatic equivalence: (1) Onde você mora? (Where you live?); (2) Onde que você mora? (Where that you live?); (3) Onde é que você mora? (Where is-it that you live?); and (4) Você mora onde? (You live where?) ‘Where do you live?’. Two discourse-pragmatic factor groups are discussed, Type of Question (information, rhetorical, and semi-rhetorical) and Givenness of the Presupposition (when last activated in the conversation, if at all). Results of multivariate analyses contrasting wh-in-situ (4) with all other structures (1−3) show that wh-in-situ is favored by semi-rhetorical questions (.68), for which the current speaker provides an answer, which suggests that they may be part of a strategy for turn-keeping. Further, the more activated the presupposition (in one of the first two preceding clauses), the greater the tendency to employ wh-in-situ (.66). The main argument is that variation in the position of the wh-word is sensitive to the hic et nunc of conversation, as speakers make their conversational contributions and common ground is updated.