I am a linguistics student and am currently doing research on supposed cases of preposition stranding in Brazilian Portuguese. So far I've come up with a few assumptions, but my data has been mostly ambiguous as to whether they are instances of true WH-movement-generated P-stranding or whether they are just examples of argument ellipsis, something like what we would call Preposition Orphaning (as occurs in French in sentences like "Le mur de Berlin, Max était CONTRE".).

The main reasons why my Portuguese data is ambiguous are:

  1. Although they make up less than 30% of my data, stranded prepositions in relative clauses do turn up, and, as most of the literature claims that relative clauses are derived by movement, this would favor a P-stranding analysis. Examples: a) “Esse é o livro que eu te falei SOBRE” (This is the book that I told you ABOUT); b) “Esse é o projeto que o deputado votou CONTRA” (This is the bill that the congressman voted AGAINST).

2.The vast majority of my data, however, is composed of sentences that seem to involve some kind of ellipsis, like the following ones: a) "Quando a pessoa é gente boa e carismática, não tem como torcer CONTRA" (When someone is nice and charismatic, you just can't root AGAINST (*him/her))

b)"Tenho uma opinião SOBRE mas não vou falar" (I have an opinion ABOUT (*it), but I won't say it.)

As you can see, in the English equivalents of my Portuguese sentences, P-stranding is not allowed. A pronoun must be inserted after the preposition. So, if these Portuguese sentences are examples of P-stranding, it would be completely different from English-like P-stranding, which seems unlikely, since these sentences do not seem to have been derived by movement.

  1. Interestingly, with complex prepositions like "em frente DE" (lit. "in front OF"), while the Case-marker "of" is preserved in English, as in "What building did you park in front OF?", the Portuguese equivalent "de" must be dropped "Que prédio você estacionou em frente *(de)?"

Given this short outline of my data, I'd like to know if you could help me with some insight into what could possibly be going on in Portuguese, a non-P-stranding language. It's also worth noting that whatever phenomenon this is, it appears to be affecting only three prepositions, namely "sobre" (on/about), "contra" (against) and "without (sem), all of which, curiously, are what you would call "lexical" or "semantically strong" prepositions, as opposed to functional ones like "of". This, in fact, seems to be another interesting contrast between what's happening in Portuguese and bona fide P-stranding. To the best of my knowledge, all languages that allow P-stranding (English, Nordic languages) do so without regard to the divide between functional/lexical prepositions. Take English, for example. In English, P-stranding is a generalized phenomenon, affecting functional prepositions like "of" and "in" as well as lexical ones, like "against" and "without". In Portuguese, however, you will never see a functional preposition without its complement. Either both are present or neither is.

Thank you very much in advance!

  • 1 definitely ‘feels’ an awful lot like P-stranding to me. I wasn’t aware BP allowed for this kind of structure at all with these particular prepositions. It feels… un-Romance (which is probably why/because it feels P-stranding-like). I can’t say for sure, but I don’t think Spanish allows this at all; at least a quite Google search for “el libro/la película que te hablé sobre” and “el problema que luchamos contra” all yield zero hits, while the more standard “el libro/la película sobre el/la que/cual te hablé” and “el problema contra el que/cual luchamos” all yield at least a few dozen hits. Feb 14 at 1:16
  • Your text has some oddities. I'd say: Você estacionou em frente de qual prêdio? I would never stick em frente on the end like that. It sounds completely non-standard and even non-idiomatic. As does: Tenho uma opinião SOBRE mas não vou falar". To be idiomatic, really, you need sobre isso. votar contra and torcer contra is not a preposition. contra there is an adverb (Priberam: (ex.: nós votámos contra). Finally, Portuguese does not have phrasal verbs. Neither does French.
    – Lambie
    Feb 14 at 23:51
  • Le mur de Berlin, Max était contre. is a typical French speech/spoken form, not a written one. The standard phrasing would be: Max était contre le mur de Berlin. I think you need to provide examples in English of P-stranding followed by the translations into Portuguese. That would go a long way to making this more specific.
    – Lambie
    Feb 14 at 23:51
  • @JanusBahsJacquet It is wrong to compare Brazilian Portuguese to Spanish as if they are that similar. In Brazilian Portuguese the use of relatives like about or against whom we are fighting is usually limited to high-register speakers. O livro do que te falei would be a somewhat more usual utterance with "do que" subsituting for "do qual" which is a higher register.
    – Lambie
    Feb 14 at 23:59
  • Você fez essa pergunta. Tentei communicar sobre o assunto com você. Houve incêndio na casa? :)
    – Lambie
    Feb 16 at 15:02


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