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[WS116] Linguistic theory and its applications: Comparative applied studies


Authors: Adriana Belletti & Cornelia Hamann (University of Siena – University of Oldenburg)

Linguistic theory and its applications: Comparative applied studies

In this workshop we aim at promoting a discussion of how formal linguistic theory can guide the study of certain domains traditionally characterized as applied. We focus here on first language acquisition, bilingualism and multilingualism, adult and child second language acquisition and on types of language pathologies such as language loss and degradation or different forms of atypical language development. In recent research it has emerged that a comparative approach is the best way to assess the issues raised by a close investigation of these domains, both in the sense of comparing the same empirical phenomena in different languages and populations (de Villiers et al. 1994, Hamann&Belletti 2006), and in the sense of comparing different phenomena in the same population. Such an approach has proved particularly successful in the case of the complexity of linguistic computations and its formal characterization (Rizzi 2004, Hamann et al. 2007, Friedmann et al. 2009, Adani et al. 2010). These investigations likewise demonstrated that it is precisely in the selection of the empirical domains and in the general issues to be given prominence that linguistic theory can and must serve as a guide. We therefore plan to invite presentations across different modes of acquisition, different pathologies, different populations (L1, adult L2, bilingualism, language attrition, SLI, hearing impairment, aphasia) and languages on the following empirical domains:

  • The production and/or comprehension of relative clauses and questions.
  • The production and/or comprehension of passive and related structures, e.g. causatives.
  • The production and/or comprehension of clitic pronouns in comparison with strong and weak pronouns.
  • The production of different types of agreement – subject/verb; adjective/noun; object clitic/past participle.
  • The influence of information structure on word order and referential dependencies and/or the identification of the subject or the object of the clause.

These domains are particularly relevant and potentially revealing in both characterizing the different modalities of language acquisition and language pathology and in defining areas in which the computational complexity of diverse morphosyntactic computations prominently manifests itself. In different ways, all these domains touch upon the proper characterization of central theoretical concepts and principles such as the locality of syntactic derivations (Rizzi 2004), the different ways in which morphosyntactic features enter syntactic derivations, e.g. number vs. gender in different languages (Guasti et al. 2008, Adani et al. 2010, Belletti et al. 2012) and the different realization of structures relevant to discourse. In this vein, the presentations will address the topics in morpho-syntax, and discourse-pragmatics outlined above with special regard to theoretically well-defined questions.

General format

One-day workshop with presentations of about 30 minutes each with 10 minutes discussion; concluding summary by the organizers followed by a general discussion.

Confirmed speakers: Adriana Belletti, Harald Clahsen, Stephen Crain, Claudia Felser, Naama Friedmann, Maria Teresa Guasti, Cornelia Hamann, Theo Marinis, Jurgen Meisel, Vincenzo Moscati, Antonella Sorace, Ianthi Tsimpli

Some selected relevant references

Adani, F., van der Lely, H.K.J., Forgiarini, M., Guasti, M.T. (2010) Grammatical feature dissimilarities make relative clauses easier: a comprehension study with Italian children. Lingua .

Belletti, A., E.Bennati, A.Sorace 2007 Theoretical and developmental issues in the syntax of subjects: evidence from near native Italian”, Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, 25:4, 657-689

Belletti, A., N. Friedmann, D. Brunato, L. Rizzi (2012) “Does gender make a difference? Comparing the effect of gender on children’s comprehension of relative clauses in Hebrew and Italian”, Lingua,

De Villiers, J.G., De Villiers, P.A., Hoban, E., 1994 “The central problem of functional categories in the English syntax of oral deaf children”, in: Tager-Flusberg, H. ed, Constraints on Language Acquisition: Studies of Atypical Children, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, 9–47.

Friedmann, N., Belletti, A., Rizzi, L., 2009. Relativized relatives: Types of intervention in the acquisition of A-bar dependencies. Lingua 119, 67–88.

Guasti, M.-T., Stavrakaki, S., Arosio, F. (2008) “Number and case in the comprehension of relative clauses: evidence from Italian and Greek. In: Gavarró A., Freitas, M.J. eds., LanguageAcquisition and Development, Cambridge Scholars Press/CSP, Cambridge, UK, pp. 230-240.

Hamann, C., A. Belletti 2006 “ Developmental patterns in the acquisition of complement clitic pronouns. Comparing different acquisition modes with an emphasis on French’, Rivista di Grammatica Generativa, 31: 39-78.

Hamann, C., L. Tuller, C. Monjauze, H. Délage and C. Henry (2007): “(Un)successful subordination in French-speaking children and adolescents with SLI”. In H. Gaunt-Nutton, S. Kulatilake and W.i-hao (eds): Proceedings of the 31st Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development. Somerville: Cascadilla Press. 286-297.

Marinis, T. (2011) On the nature and cause of Specific Language Impairment: a view from sentence processing and infant research. Lingua, 121 (3): 463-475.

Messenger, K., Branigan, H., McLean, J., A. Sorace 2012 Is young children's passive syntax semantically constrained? Evidence from syntactic priming. Journal of Memory and Language.

Rothweiler, M., Chilla, S. & H. Clahsen (2012). Subject verb agreement in Specific Language Impairment: A study of monolingual and bilingual German-speaking children. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition15: 39-57.

Rizzi, L., 2004. Locality and the left periphery. In: Belletti, A. (Ed.), Structures and beyond: The cartography of syntactic structures, Vol. 3. Oxford-New York, Oxford University Press, pp. 223–251.

25.07.2013   10:30-13:00


10:30 - 11:00 Cornelia HAMANN et al.
Introduction; conclusion; wrap up and some thoughts on aspects of syntactic coplexity
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11:00 - 11:40 Stephen CRAIN
Cut-and-paste meets linguistic theory
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11:40 - 12:20 Antonella SORACE
Interactions between linguistic constraints and executive functions in early and late bilingualism
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12:20 - 13:00 Ianthi TSIMPLI et al.
Bilingualism and language impairment: linguistic and cognitive effects
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25.07.2013   16:30-18:30


16:30 - 17:10 Theo MARINIS
Parsing passives across populations
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17:10 - 17:50 Harald CLAHSEN
Derivation versus inflection: Experimental evidence for a controversial distinction
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17:50 - 18:30 Claudia FELSER
Binding constraints in non-native language processing
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26.07.2013   10:30-13:00


10:30 - 11:10 Maria Teresa GUASTI
Object clitics across linguistic modes in a crosslinguistic perspective
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11:10 - 11:50 Vincenzo MOSCATI
Movement and Locality in Language Acquisition: a Ranked Typology of Agreement in Italian
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11:50 - 12:30 Adriana BELLETTI
Some thoughts about syntactic complexity and its implications - introduction, conclusion and wrap-up
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