Philological Society Prize for Amanda Thomas

21 July 2021

Trinity DPhil student Amanda Thomas has been named runner-up in the prestigious Robins Prize. 

The Robins Prize is awarded by the Philological Society every two years and is given for an article on a linguistic topic that falls within the area of the Society’s interests. The Prize takes is name from the former PhilSoc President Professor R H Robins and is awarded to a registered student (at the time of submission) and a Member or Student Associate Member of the Philological Society. 

Amanda Thomas was named Runner-Up for her essay, Multiple factors in the licensing of null arguments: Null Objects in Brazilian Portuguese, and will receive a £250 prize. 

Amanda Thomas explains: 'My article looks at the grammar of Brazilian Portuguese as spoken in the city of Salvador, based on research I carried out there with native Portuguese speakers. In particular, I looked at the phenomenon of ‘null objects’, where speakers don’t use an object pronoun where we would might expect one. For example, in Brazilian Portuguese, it is possible to omit the ‘it’ in the sentence ‘I have heard about the film but I haven’t seen (it).’

'I investigated the grammatical rules that determine when the pronoun can be omitted and when it must be included. Previous research showed that pronouns referring to humans are much more likely to be included, while those referring to inanimate objects are generally omitted. My research improves our knowledge of the grammatical rules that operate in this variety of Brazilian Portuguese, allowing comparison with other varieties of Portuguese and related languages. This sheds light on how languages vary and change over time.'