Subject positions in Heritage Spanish and Italian spoken in Germany
Scherger Anna-Lena1, Katrin Schmitz2, Di Venanzio Laura3
1Stiftung Universität Hildesheim; 2Universität Wuppertal, Deutschland; 3Universität Duisburg-Essen
Recent years have seen an enormous increase of investigation of heritage languages (HL) and their acquisition in various grammatical domains and language combinations. The answers to important questions on the nature of heritage language acquisition (HLA), however, still diverge largely. While subject expression has been studied intensely in the HLs Spanish and Italian with diverging results in terms of (in)complete acquisition, the position of overt subjects has become a focus of investigation only more recently. Studies on postverbal subjects in the HL Spanish in the US (de Prada Pérez & Pascual y Cabo 2012, Pascual y Cabo 2013) as well as in the Netherlands (VanOsch et al. 2016) investigated the knowledge of the HS with respect to the interplay of subject position, unaccusativity of the verb and information structure (information focus). The position of subjects thus involves the semantics/syntax and the pragmatics/syntax interface. De Prada Pérez (2012) and VanOsch et al. (2016) observe a general move towards more preverbal subjects and a less sharp distinction of predicate types. For unaccusative psych verbs (gustar/piacere-type ‘to like’ verbs), Pascual y Cabo (2013) observes an innovation of structures towards (ungrammatical) preverbal subjects and invariable gusta (Yo me gusta la pizza instead of Me gusta la pizza) due to transfer from English.
These observations as well as the general aim to understand of interlanguage processes and features possibly transferred from the majority language German motivate our study. Unlike the two Romance languages, German is a non-null subject language like English and Dutch, but allows for post-verbal subjects in a strict V2 order in main clauses (like Dutch) and a verb end order in subordinate clauses. Based on semi-structured interview data with different types of focus in overt subjects from monolingual Italians (n=10) and Spaniards (n=7) as well as Italian HS (n=16) and Spanish HS (n=7) living in Germany, we will answer the following research questions:
RQ1: Do we find more preverbal subjects and a loss of the distinction of the predicate type in HS when compared to monolinguals?
RQ2: Do potential divergences between monolinguals and HS differ between Italian and Spanish?
Results on pre- and post-verbal subjects with different verb types in Spanish and Italian as HL in Germany will also be discussed with respect to the role of the language combination and the applicability of the (revised) IH to HL acquisition.
11:45 - 12:30
Comprehension and production of Italian postverbal subjects: evidence from Italian heritage speakers in Turkey
Sapienza Università di Roma, Italia
The study reports the result of an experiment targeting use and preference for postverbal subjects in Italian by 8 multilingual heritage speakers whose dominant language is Turkish. All participants belong to the old Italian Levantine community of Istanbul, whose members have so far maintained a multilingual linguistic repertoire that include Italian, French and Greek, as well as Turkish.
The theoretical background of the study is the Interface Hypothesis (IH), according to which linguistic phenomena at the interface between syntax and discourse are particularly vulnerable in the acquisition of heritage languages due to a variety of factors that are often difficult to disentangle, including underspecification of interpretable features, processing costs of bilingualism itself, and input effects.
The aim of the study was to assess the role of these factors in the HS’ grammars compared to those of a control group of 10 Italian monolingual. A two-parts timed, computer-assisted test was carried out: the first part consisted in combining given words to formulate an appropriate answer to a given question, in wide or narrow focus conditions (e.g. Perché Giovanni è felice? Ieri/suo fratello/tornare). The second part consisted in choosing the most appropriate answer to a given question between two options, in wide focus conditions (e.g. Chi era prima al telefono? Non lo so: Mario ha risposto/Non lo so: ha risposto Mario).
Collected data illustrate an internal distinction in the experimental group depending on the role of Turkish as language of primary and secondary education. More specifically, subjects of the experimental group who had not attended eight consecutive years of education in Turkish differ from their monolingual counterpart only in the use of postverbal subjects [W(18) = 55.5, Z = -3.535, p = .001], whereas those who had continuously attended Turkish schools from the age of 6 to the age of 14 show vulnerability both in use [Z2 = 57.9, p =.001] and preference [Z2 = 11.27, p = .010] of the same interface.
The proposal is put forward that for the former the source of non-target behaviour is instability in linguistic performance that emerges only in production due to its higher cognitive burden; in the latter, instead, the exposition to a Turkish input in critical years may have affected the linguistic representation, thus emerging both in production and interpretation of postverbal subjects. Effects of cross-linguistic influence, then, appears to emerge only under particular input conditions related to the speaker’s educational development and life choices.