svenska84 wrote:This is an interesting little debate.
Interesting indeed, but (as you may guess) discussions regarding such points of the language can often get even more heated than the English threads on grammar we've had lately.
svenska84 wrote:Also, I'm interested primarily in spoken norms, as I'm already aware of the distinctions in verbs for the written language--I just wonder how much that corresponds to spoken norms.
For me, it's one of those points with which most people will disagree between themselves. If I talk to a close friend ignoring the distinction between singular and plural as Hefestos pointed, it's okay; if a university professor, the manager of an important company, a lecturer or someone people usually expect to be more educated address his students, subordinates etc. speaking like that, chances are he'll be looked down on. You're quite unlikely to get a job in e.g. a call centre if you speak like that, and you'll probably never see that being used in writing even by educated speakers who actually speak like that. Full lack of agreement is probably one of the most stigmatised points in the language, and speakers will often be seen as uneducated or second class in quite a few situations.
It doesn't happen on its own either. I mean, if you do that with verbs, but not with nouns and adjectives, you'll probably sound a bit funny. From my personal experience, people who have this as their natural norm will also have a much larger number of such popular / colloquial elements in their speech. In a way, it's like this would be the current evolutionary stage of Brazilian Portuguese¹ if it wasn't for normative grammar and formal education.
svenska84 wrote:This could also possibly be an issue of dialectal diffrerence, couldn't it?
That too, but I believe it's not so easy to define it, as it also seems to depend on speech level, environment, context, formal education, even personal preferences.
¹ I always had the impression that's also something that happens more often a central region of Brazil (São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso do Sul, Goiás), and not throughout the country, but I may be wrong about it.
Thanks for your comments! You explained the situation well--I can think of some parallels with English as spoken here, where it's possibe even the most educated people do it but it depends on context, and it would probably sound funny in a more formal setting. Makes sense. Also, features like these may often be stigmatized yet still relatively common--to the point that many people may do it and not even realize it, or at least not realize how often they do it. At least with English (and I would assume this would apply to Portuguese or any other language with written standards, too) people tend to believe they speak exactly as they write or often that they speak "just like the newscasters" when in fact neither is the case.
I remember in my beginning linguistics class that my professor asked the class to raise their hands if they ever used [ɪn] instead of [ɪŋ] (actually, [iŋ] here because of front-vowel raising before [ŋ], but that's another story) in the "-ing" form of verbs, and very few people raised their hands, yet everyone does it sometimes in informal speech (where it's not very stigmatized) it's just that most people are unaware of it.
Back to pronouns in BP, as I said before my guess would be that the higher frequency of pronouns would have to be caused by something and not just be a random development--and that would most probably be the likelihood of some differences in verbal morphology to be dropped or neutralized. If we take a look at Spanish or Italian, as far as I know, I can't think of any dialects of either language (tho they could exist theoretically) where distinctions in verbal morphology are dropped, thus Spanish and Italian almost never use pronouns before verbs unless there's a specific reason to distinguish people, which is relatively rare. Also, even the loss of a couple or few morphological forms may prompt the usage of pronouns in all cases, as may be seen in French historically. In most cases, spoken French has 4 verbal forms which sound the same and 2 which don't, and pronouns are used even for the morphologically unique pronouns.
je mange [mɑ̃ʒ]
tu manges [mɑ̃ʒ]
il mange [mɑ̃ʒ]
nous mangeons [mɑ̃ʒɔ̃]
vous mangez [mɑ̃ʒe]
ils mangent [mɑ̃ʒ]
So, I wouldn't find it surprising that if a couple or few had been dropped in spoken Portuguese, that pronoun usage all around would increase as a result.
Anyway, a fascinating topic--I had been unaware of this phenomenon till recently, as my experiences with Portuguese are usually with the written language, which is as we all know not necessarily the best representation of informal speech, even of the most educated people.