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Subject Anaphora in the L2 Dutch of Native Italian Speakers

By A. M. (Aaltje Martha) Veenstra


Children and elderly adults have difficulties producing and comprehending subject anaphora (Hendriks et al, 2008; Wubs et al., 2009). Their cognitive resources are too limited to take into account the opposite perspective, causing a deviant performance. This study investigates subject anaphora by Italian speakers of Dutch within an Optimality Theory framework. Twenty Italian speakers of Dutch and twenty native speakers of Dutch took part in a production and a comprehension task. Two hypotheses were tested: 1. Because of cognitive demands of using a second language, Italian L2 adults are unable to take into account the opposite perspective, and fail to interpret NPs marking a topic shift and they produce null subjects or pronouns for non-topics. 2. Italian L2 adults use their Italian constraint ranking for subject anaphora in Dutch; they incorrectly interpret pronouns as not referring to the topic of the discourse, and produce null subjects for topics. There was no evidence to support hypothesis 1, but there was a negative correlation between age and successfulness in subject anaphora, similar to the L1 adults. In addition, the Italian L2 adults’ production was similar to that of the Dutch native speakers, but they incorrectly interpreted pronouns in comprehension, supporting hypothesis 2.

Year: 2010
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