Existentials as impersonalising devices: the case of European Portuguese1


  • 1

    An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Fourth International Conference on Construction Grammar, Tokyo. I would also like to thank two anonymous reviewers and Paul Rowlett whose comments and suggestions greatly improved this paper. I would also like to thank Nigel Vincent and Kim Ebensgaard Jensen for invaluable comments on the paper. I am of course entirely responsible for any shortcomings. The research for this paper was supported by the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology).

School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures
University of Manchester
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Email: susana.afonso@postgrad.manchester.ac.uk


Existentials have been associated with the functions of asserting existence of an entity, setting a scene, presentation of new discourse entities, as well as listing. They are structures whose meaning is connected to discourse. Although the construction has been widely studied, some of the functions it performs, such as the impersonalising function have remained largely unexplored. This paper takes impersonalisation as a functional concept, in the sense of agent removal from a scene, shows how existentials in European Portuguese are also impersonal constructions, and describes them within the framework of construction grammar.