Patrícia Amaral

Patrícia Amaral

Associate Professor, Spanish and Portuguese

Adjunct Associate Professor of Linguistics

*2021-2022 Senior Faculty Fellow, Institute for Digital Arts and Humanities (IDAH)


  • Ph.D., Hispanic Linguistics, Ohio State University, 2007
  • M.A., Linguistics, University of Coimbra, 1999
  • B.A., Classical Languages, University of Coimbra, 1996

About Patrícia Amaral

My research investigates the way in which context is necessary in the interpretation of lexical items, and how this interaction is crucial not only to understand the meaning of words and sentences at a certain moment in time, but also to understand how word meaning changes over time. In particular, I am interested in investigating systematic patterns of change reflecting this interaction that can be observed in the Ibero-Romance languages but also in languages that are not genetically related to them. I adopt a variety of methodologies, ranging from analyzing corpus data to experimental methods.

In my research so far, I have investigated semantic notions like gradability and plurality that cut across different syntactic categories. More specifically, I am interested in the syntactic and semantic change undergone by scalar terms (e.g. words meaning almost, barely) as they shed light on current theoretical questions both regarding types of meaning and mechanisms of language change. In my research, I pursue this connection between theoretical endeavor and empirically-based inquiry, grounded in the tradition of Hispanic Linguistics. I often adopt a comparative perspective within Romance with the goal of identifying the contribution of these data to current linguistic theories. This aspect of my research is reflected in the co-edited volume Portuguese/Spanish Interfaces: Diachrony, Synchrony, and Contact, published in 2014 as the inaugural volume of John Benjamins series on Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics.

An additional area of interest in my research is language contact between closely-related languages; in a collaborative project I have studied morphosyntactic and semantic properties of Barranquenho, a contact language spoken in the southern border of Portugal and Spain. I regularly present my work at venues in both Hispanic Linguistics and general Linguistics, e.g. the Hispanic Linguistics Symposium (HLS), the Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages (LSRL), and the Annual Meeting of the Linguistics Society of America.

Research in linguistics is highly collaborative: most of my work is co-authored and I work both with peers and students at all levels. I believe that students learn better when they are given a research question to solve and I apply this principle both in my undergraduate and graduate classes. Mentoring is a crucial part of who I am as a scholar and I see it as an opportunity to learn and share my research interests.


  • Syntax-semantics interface
  • Historical linguistics (syntactic and semantic change)
  • Lexical semantics
  • Romance linguistics
  • Experimental pragmatics