L'italiano come prima e seconda (madre)lingua: Indagine longitudinale sullo sviluppo del DP

Translated title of the contribution: Italian as (first) and second language: a longitudinal study on the development of the DP

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


This thesis deals with the development of the DP (the Determiner Phrase) in bilingual first (2L1) and in adult second (L2) language acquisition of Italian, with a focus on a case study of Italian as a second first language. The thesis suggests that the bilingual children and the Swedish adult learners develop the Italian DP differently. The child acquiring Italian as a second first language develops Italian more like the adults, but he sets the parameters of the DP in an order different both from Italian as a first first language and from Italian as a second language in adult learners. Transfer is claimed to occur both in the boy who acquires Italian as a second first language and in the adults, but only with regard to the N-raising parameter (Cinque, 1995) in the child, and in all three parameters investigated in the adult learners. The empirical part contains three interrelated analyses. The first analysis deals with gender and number concord and development. The children and the adults differ in the order of development between gender and number: the children seem to acquire gender as an intrinsic feature of the Italian nouns. In the Swedish adult L2 learners, number is marked early, but gender remains problematic in all the recordings. In addition, transfer of the Swedish gender specification of nouns could be argued to occur in the adult L2 learners, but not in the bilingual children. The results may speak against theories of L2 acquisition where an initial absence of FCs is postulated and support theories where transfer and full access to UG are postulated. The results also speak in favour of a gradual development of phrase structure in 2L1 acquisition. The second analysis deals with the development and omission of determiners. With respect to the development of determiners, following our hypothesis concerning the setting of the Italian value of the determiner parameter (Bottari et al., 2001), determiners that are XPs should appear before determiners that are Xºs if transfer from Swedish occurs. This is borne out in the data, and an age difference is revealed. In the 2L1 children, the determiner that is an Xº (the definite article) appears before the other determiners (XPs), while in the adults, the reverse pattern is observed. Following our hypothesis concerning the Italian value of the determiner parameter, with respect to the universal determiner requirement, transfer of the Swedish value should imply omission of determiners in preverbal subject position. The transfer hypothesis is borne out in the adult L2 data, as they omit determiners in this position. The children omit determiners mainly in verbless utterances, but as soon as verbs appear, they supply them quite regularly. We argue that the adults transfer the way the determiner request is satisfied, namely with Nº to Dº movement instead of direct insertion of an element in Spec-DP or Dº. The children do not transfer this way of satisfying the determiner request, but omit determiners one at a time when their NPs are not yet arguments to verbs. The third analysis shows that word order of the DP is acquired differently by the child who has Italian as a second L1, as compared to monolingual Italian children, but in a way similarly to the adult L2 learners: qualitative adjectives are mainly positioned after the noun and possessives are only positioned after the noun in the boy who has Italian as a second 2L1 and in the adult L2 learners, whereas the monolingual L1 Italian children and the girl who acquires Italian as a first 2L1 position the qualitative adjectives mainly after the noun, and the possessive in both positions. We argue that the N-raising parameter is set later in the case of Italian as a second 2L1 and as a L2 in adulthood, due to influence from Swedish. In conclusion, the main results are accounted for if we assume that the initial state of 2L1 and L2 is fundamentally different: the 2L1 initial state is built on two lexicons, and only word order parameters may be subject to transfer, depending similarities in the surface word order in the two languages (Müller & Hulk, 2001). In adult L2 acquisition, on the other hand, all parameter values seem to be subject to transfer from L1, due to the fact that L2 initial state is built on the L1 lexicon (v. d. Craats, 2000).
Translated title of the contributionItalian as (first) and second language: a longitudinal study on the development of the DP
Original languageItalian
Awarding Institution
  • Italian Studies
  • Schlyter, Suzanne, Supervisor
Award date2004 Dec 4
ISBN (Print)91-973886-9-6
Publication statusPublished - 2004

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2004-12-04
Time: 10:15
Place: Nya festsalen, Akademiska föreningen, Sandgatan 2, Lund

External reviewer(s)

Name: Giusti, Giuliana
Title: assistant professor
Affiliation: Università Ca'Foscari Venezia


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Specific Languages

Free keywords

  • Italian language and literature
  • L1 lexicon
  • two lexicons
  • syntax
  • morphology
  • adult learners
  • bilingual children
  • functional categories
  • parameter setting
  • universal grammar
  • weaker language
  • DP
  • L2
  • 2L1
  • L1
  • development
  • acquisition
  • Italian
  • Swedish
  • gender parameter
  • number
  • gender
  • v. d. Craats.
  • agreement
  • transfer
  • definite word order
  • suffixed article
  • determiner parameter
  • N-raising parameter
  • Italienska (språk och litteratur)


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