A Linguistic History of Italian (Longman Linguistics Library)

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Synopsis About this title A view of the major elements in the structural evolution of the Italian language, this study aims to be accessible to those who know the modern language and seek the historical rationale behind some of its features, and to those who are interested in the history of the Romance languages. Create a Want. Other Popular Editions of the Same Title. Routledge, Hardcover. His classification includes three categories.

First, positive transfer, that is, the facilitating effect which takes place when the similarities between L1 and the target language or languages promote acquisition. For instance, similarities in syntactic structures can facilitate the acquisition of grammar and also, similarities in vocabulary can reduce the time needed to develop good reading comprehension.

Second, negative transfer, which involves divergences from norms in the target language, includes issues such as underproduction or avoidance, overproduction, production errors in speech and writing and, misinterpretation as L1 structures can influence the interpretation of L2 messages leading learners to infer something very different from what speakers of the target language would infer. Misinterpretation may occur, at the writing level, when L1 and L2 word-order patterns differ.

Finally, to better assess the cumulative effects that the similarities and differences of the languages can produce, Odlin claims that a third category which looks at the length of time required to achieve a high command of a language is needed. To support his argument, he presents a list that shows the maximum lengths of intensive language courses, being Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, Greek and Russian among the example languages which require more number of weeks for native English speakers to achieve a high degree of mastery. This brings into play the role of language distance which refers to the degree of similarity between two languages.

This last assumption is closely related to the concept of psychotypology brought by Kellerman He suggests two interacting factors which are involved in language transfer.

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One is the learner's perception of the nature of the L2 and the other is the degree of markedness 1 of an L1 structure. The perception of the L2 and the distance from the L1 Kellerman refers to as psychotypology pp. Corder calls into question the term transfer and suggests mother tongue influence as a neutral and broader term to refer to what has most commonly been called transfer.

He asserts that the original theory of transfer assigned a very restricted role to the mother tongue and that it did not cover all the phenomena sufficiently. Gundel and Tarone agreed by saying "Despite the obviously important role of the first language in second language acquisition, the term 'language transfer' is misleading because it implies a simple transfer of surface 'patterns', thus obscuring the complex interaction between the first and the second language systems and language universals" pp.

They defined it as the interplay between earlier and later acquired languages. This umbrella term includes such phenomena as transfer, interference, avoidance, borrowing, and L2 related aspects. Also, this term welcomes both studies on second and foreign language acquisition extending it to many more types of language contact situations such as naturalistic and tutored. In sum, CLI is presented by Kellerman and Sharwood as a particular domain of investigation in SLA and fill regarding the theoretical problems associated with identifying and explaining how the native and target languages interact in second language acquisition and performance.

Studies of cross-linguistic influence in SLA have been conducted at all the linguistic levels: phonological, lexical, syntactical and semantic For a brief account see Liu, For the purpose of this paper, let us now concentrate on the syntactical and lexical levels only. Empirical studies of second language syntax have fueled much of the debate regarding language transfer. Liu presents a brief account on the main research interests regarding cross-linguistic influence at the level of syntax in the seventies:.

In his discussion on the notion of syntactic transfer, Odlin reviews empirical studies which have showed considerable evidence both for positive and negative transfer related to issues such as articles, word-order, relative clauses and negation. He affirms that word order, for instance, has been one of the most intensively studied syntactic properties in SLA research and that it has been useful for a better understanding of transfer. In the case of English and Italian, the two languages of interest in this paper, the basic word order, for both languages, is one in which grammatical subjects precede verbs or verb phrases , which in turn precede objects, and thus the abbreviation which characterizes the order of constituents in a clause is SVO.

Odlin also brings into play the concept of word-order rigidity.

A Linguistic History of Italian by Taylor & Francis Ltd (Paperback, 1995)

English word order is quite rigid and "in contrast to some languages, word order is affected little by pragmatic factors. It allows syntactic structures such as:.


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In support of this argument, Vigliocco et al. When the language has freer word-order, as is the case of Italian, the grammatical position of the subject may be less important and lexico-semantic influences correspondingly more important. Vigliocco et al.

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According to Odlin , rigidity appears to be a transferable property. Speakers of a flexible language may use several word orders in English even though English word order is quite rigid. Odlin here exemplifes by mentioning some studies of production such as the one carried out by Granfors and Palmber in , who listed numerous errors in English word order in a guided composition task performed by native speakers of Finish, a flexible SVO language.

Research on Italian and Spanish workers in Germany also provides strong evidence of transfer of basic word-order patterns Meisel, Clahsen, and Pienemann as cited by Odlin, Another focus of attention regarding syntactic transfer has been the issue of the pro-drop parameter.

IT The Language of Italy | Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages

The first study that explicitly examined the occurrence of zero and overt pronouns in the interlanguage of second language learners was conducted by Gundel and Tarone Their purpose was to provide further insight into the role of the L1 in L2 acquisition by investigating the acquisition of pronouns by second language learners.

They found that learners whose L1 do not allow null elements also sometimes produce null elements in the L2. Few studies have investigated syntactic transfer in the acquisition of an L2 that does allow null subjects e. Jin for instance, found that Learners whose L1 was English, a language which does not allow null elements, excessively overproduce subject and object pronouns in the L2.

Similarly, Xiao's comparative study, clearly indicated that learners of Chinese whose L1 was English used subject and object pronouns far more frequently than learners whose L1 was Japanese or Korean. One of the most striking differences between a language such as English and a language such as Italian is the fact that in English, except for the imperatives, it is necessary to have an overt subject in sentences, whereas in Italian it is not. According to Kean this difference constitutes one of the three facets of the pro-drop parameter.

In addition to allowing empty or null subjects, pro-drop languages also allow free inversion of overt subjects in simple sentences and admit apparent violations of the that-trace filter; non pro-drop languages admit none of these phenomena in well-formed sentences. The examples below illustrate this typological distinction: Examples from White, as cited by Kean, All three phenomena are characteristic of pro-drop languages.

Kean suggests that a speaker of Italian learning English would be predicted to show transfer of pro-drop in the grammar of the early interlanguage. Syntactic transfer has also been studied at the level of tenses. Celaya analyzed longitudinal and cross-sectional data on the acquisition and use of four English tenses by Catalan Spanish speakers.

One important finding in her study is the fact that English tenses are used erroneously in some cases without any influence from the L1, instead, other factors such as the social, educational and linguistic may affect in several ways. However, her data showed that transfer seems to be favored by the different meaning of tenses in the languages and that learners with low proficiency in the L2 draw from their L1 in the use of the present continuous while transfer in the use of simple past tense was more evident at higher levels.

In Italian, as in Spanish, both the present tense and the equivalent to the present continuous can be used to express current activity. The Italian speaker, as the Spanish one as pointed out by Celaya will probably transfer this usage into English and produce sentences such as:.

In terms of linguistic transfer at the lexical level, Ringbom's work has been one of the most influential contributions. In his study of comparable groups of learners of English as a foreign language with different L1s Finnish and Swedish , he found great predominance of L1 influence on lexis. Ringbom argues that the cross-linguistic similarities between L1 and L2 can be assumed to play an important role in the storage of lexical items.

He defines lexical knowledge as "a system or set of systems which can be used for the purposes of both comprehension and production. Following his discussion of cross-linguistic influence on production, he proposes a distinction between overt and covert cross-linguistic influence which is based on whether or not similarity is perceived by the learner: "Whereas covert cross-linguistic influence is due to lack of perceived similarity, overt cross-linguistic influence depends on perceived similarities" Ringbom, According to Ringbom , overt cross-linguistic influence can be divided into transfer and borrowing as the end-points on a continuum in which some elements in between are present.

Those elements are semantic extensions, loan translations, complete language shift, hybrids, blends and relexifications, and false friends. In a later study, Ringbom observes that lexical transfer errors can be related to form and meaning distinctively and he proposes a new classification of five categories: language switches, coinages blends and hybrids deceptive cognates false friends , calques and semantic extensions, being these two last categories related to transfer of meaning.

Gabrys-Barker applies Ringbom's classification in her study of lexical processing in the context of trilingual language users in order to analyze translation equivalents produced by her students. In his discussion of transfer in foreign language learning, Ringbom distinguishes between different types of cross-linguistic similarity relations which refer to items and systems; form and meaning; L1 vs.

L2 transfer in L3 learning; modes of comprehension and production; and perceived or assumed similarity and objective similarity. He argues that the role played by those relations varies both quantitatively and qualitatively depending on the way they are interlinked. Moreover, Ringbom claims that in lexical transfer, either L2 items are combined according to the pattern of L1 combinations, or the semantic structure of an L1 word is transferred to the L2 word without any formal similarity being involved.


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  • As I see it, this last assumption is closely related to one of the two subtypes of interlanguage transfer brought by De Angelis and Selinker which is "morphological interlanguage transfer". They defined it as "the production of interlanguage forms in which a free or bound non-target morpheme is mixed with a different free or bound target morpheme to form an approximated target language word".

    In their study of two adult multilinguals speaking in Italian, they found two types of interlanguage influence. First, the use of an entire non-target interlanguage word which they classifed as lexical interlanguage transfer. And second, the use of non-target free or bound morphemes in the formation of a target word.

    Celaya and Torras studied the role of the L1 Spanish and Catalan in EFL open class words in order to analyze the differences in number and types of lexical transfer at three different ages. Their findings suggest that children rely more on the L1 when the type of transfer is more direct misspellings while adults and adolescents draw on the L1 more than children in the process which combines L1 and L2 knowledge coinages. However, they highlight that L1 influence in EFL written vocabulary "may be affected not only by age alone but also by different methodologies" that take place within the classroom practices.

    In a more recent longitudinal study, Celaya analyzes the relationship between the influence of the two L1s Spanish and Catalan and L2 proficiency levels in EFL open class words. Her findings reveal that although L1 influence decreases as the proficiency levels in L2 increase, there is a non-standard form calques which does not decline after hours of instruction.

    Thus, the author suggests that L1 influence and L2 proficiency interrelate in diverse ways depending on the type of non-standard word. In these two studies which are part of the BAF project at the University of Barcelona, the researchers analyzed their data on the basis of James's classification of errors creating a very useful taxonomy to classify lexical transfer into four categories: misspelling, borrowing, coinage and calque 2.

    Thus, I have found Celaya and Torras' work on lexical transfer very illuminating for the development of this paper as they have studied lexical transfer in the context of the writing production of low proficiency learners of English as a foreign language in instructional settings. Assuming that, and as it has been established beyond doubt by several authors and researchers, that cross-linguistic influence does occur in the language learning process, my aim in this exploratory study, conducted at a small-scale, is to answer the two following research questions:.

    The subject is a native speaker of Italian. He is a fourteen year-old boy from a small city in the south of Italy. Italian is his L1 and it is the language he uses for daily communication with his parents, siblings, relatives and friends.

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