University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


In this paper, I propose a syntactic treatment for Brazilian Portuguese verbal Prefixes. In an empirical level, I show that prefixes a-, en- and es- can contribute with semantic, aspectual and argument structure of the root to each they attach when they combine with v forming a kind of complex head (v-p). On the other hand, the same prefixes can show no structural contribution and no predictable meaning to the verb when attached to some bound root formations. In a theoretical level, I proposed that prefixation contribution is determined by locality domains of attachment instead of resourcing to an explanation in terms of a lexical vs. non lexical formation. The general proposal is that that prefixes can merge in three different places in syntactic structure implying different results to the final structure : a. within rootP; b. outside rootP but not above the first categorizer (cyclic head in terms of Embick 2010); c. above little v or some other categorized structure, working as word modifiers. Within this approach, the distinction among lexical, inner and superlexical prefixes (Markova & Padrosa-Trias 2008) can be treated in terms of locality attachment on syntactic structure, dispensing with a two place theory of word formation. Moreover, the proposal of a “above VP” and “below VP” attachment for prefixes (Svenonius 2004) is too rough to account for the focused BP data since we would have to assume that prefixes a-, en- and es- always attach below VP and this makes the distinction between rootP internal and rootP external prefix attachment impossible.



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