Idioma: Español
Fecha: Subida: 2021-04-09T00:00:00+02:00
Duración: 21m 47s
Lugar: Conferencia
Visitas: 70 visitas

The acquisition of VS structures in L2 Italian in a developmental perspective: a corpus-based study

Andrea Listanti (University for Foreigners of Siena), Jacopo Torregrossa (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt) and Liana Tronci (University for Foreigners of Siena)


The distribution of post-verbal subjects (VS) in Italian is governed by lexicon-syntax (with unaccusative verbs; [1]) and syntax-discourse (information-focus on the subject; [2]) interface conditions. In L2, phenomena related to the former interface are more easily attained [3]. Accordingly, the performance of advanced L2-learners of Italian with VS differs depending on whether the subject follows an unaccusative verb or is marked for focus ([4]; [5] on L2-Spanish). However, it remains unexplored how VS emerges at lower levels of proficiency and whether the divide between lexicon-syntax and syntax-discourse interface phenomena is reflected at the developmental level (cf. [6] and [7] for a similar perspective).
We conducted a corpus study on the LIPS Corpus, that collects transcriptions of language assessment exams of learners with varied L1 and proficiency (A1-C2) ([8]). After dividing the transcriptions in units and isolating VSstructures (Table 1, PDF), we analysed them following a multi-layered annotation of verbs and subjects. We considered verb-type (distinguishing between unaccusatives – coding separately the “piacere (like)-type” verbs with ThemaNOM and ExeriencerDAT – unergatives and transitives) and semantic (agentivity) and information-structure features of the subject.
To avoid any arbitrariness in coding topic and focus, we relied on the inventory of topic- and focus-associated functions reported in [9]. The former features include givenness, while the latter contrast with a set of alternatives and occurrence with focus-operators (accordingly, given constituents be focused, too).
As for the verb-type, Figure 1 (PDF) reveals a decrease in the use of VS with V=“piacere-type” from B2 onwards and an increase in the use of VS with other types of unaccusatives from B1 to B2. There is also a steady increase in the number of VS with V=transitive. A relevant percentage of VS with V=unergatives (21%) occurs only at C1. The analysis of the information structure shows that the higher the proficiency, the greater is the tendency for postverbal subjects to be associated with focus (Figure 2, PDF middle line), with the difference between B2 and C1 reaching significance (χ(1)=7.29, p=.005). Most of these subjects are contextually given (line on top), which is observed across all levels (with the lowest percentage – 55% - at B1). Finally, postverbal subjects are increasingly associated with agentivity across levels A1-C1, with a significant increase between B1 and B2 (χ(1)=5.31, p=.02) and with a slight decrease between C1 and C2 (bottom line).
Overall, our results comply with the hypothesis of a developmental trajectory from lexicon-syntax to syntaxdiscourse interface phenomena. The semantic analysis suggests that post-verbal constituents are progressively assigned subject-status, being more and more associated with agentivity. This developmental pattern is also confirmed by the error analysis concerning verb-subject agreement (20% of errors in A1&A2, 14% in B1, 6% in C1 and 3% in C2). Likewise, the increasing occurrence of focused subjects (together with the extension of VS to unaccusatives, unergatives and transitives) denotes learners’ developing sensitivity to information-structure (with the preferred interpretation being
contrastive focus). When looking at lower proficiency levels, the data seem to challenge the idea that “piacere-type” verbs emerge relatively late because of non-canonical alignment between thematic roles and grammatical functions [6].
However, the observation that in these structures, postverbal constituents are not necessarily assigned subject-status (see data on subject-verb agreement errors) suggests that piacere-verbs function as “pivots” for a syntactic schema that is later extended to other verb-types.


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Serie: CILC2021: Los corpus y la adquisición y enseñanza del lenguaje / Corpora, LA and teaching (+información)