General programme, activity sheet

Saturday 20 September, 2014 10:30 to 11:00 Oral presentation
Acquiring Italian accusative clitic placement in simultaneous bilingualism
Authors: Tihana Kras, Maja Milicevic


This study investigates Italian accusative clitic placement in simultaneous bilingualism, testing one of the predictions of the original version of the Interface Hypothesis; specifically, it examines the claim that narrow syntactic properties are acquired early in bilingual L1 acquisition (Sorace & Filiaci, 2006). We consider accusative clitic placement to be a purely syntactic phenomenon due to the fact that object clitics in Italian occupy different verb-adjacent positions depending on the type of the clause: in finite clauses they appear to the left of the highest finite verb, while in non-finite clauses they occur to the right of the infinitive; in restructuring constructions they can either precede the finite verb, giving rise to clitic climbing, or follow the infinitive; in causative constructions they must climb to the finite verb. The study included two groups of children aged 13-14, Italian monolinguals and Croatian-Italian simultaneous bilinguals, and a group of adult monolinguals. The participants judged the acceptability of object clitics placed before, within and after the predicate in finite, restructuring and causative constructions using Magnitude Estimation. The bilinguals showed non-target-like behaviour in causative constructions in the present, where they did not distinguish between the licit preverbal (Il padre LO fa lavorare giorno e notte ‘His father makes him work day and night’) and the illicit postverbal (*L’insegnante fa lavorarLO troppo ‘The teacher makes him work too hard’) and intermediate (*Il capo fa LO lavorare senza pausa ‘The boss makes him work without a break’) positions of the clitic. Straightforward cross-linguistic influence is excluded given that Croatian object clitics occupy the second position in all types of clauses. The results suggest that some aspects of Italian accusative clitic placement may not be acquired even at late stages of bilingual L1 acquisition, which is not in line with the version of the Interface Hypothesis tested.
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Paper session F
Place: Main Room

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