V. 61 N. 1 (2023)

Similar forms with different functions and uses: The (un)learning of the Italian periphrasis andare a + infinitive by L1-Spanish speakers

Paolo Della Putta
Università di Torino
Francesca Strik Lievers
Università di Milano-Bicocca

Pubblicato 2023-06-28

Parole chiave

  • Romance periphrases,
  • aspect,
  • unlearning,
  • second language acquisition


Despite their formal similarity, the Italian periphrasis andare a + infinitive and the Spanish periphrasis ir a + infinitive display different values. In this paper, we investigate how Spanish (L1) speakers deal with andare a + infinitive when learning Italian as a second language (L2). This case study offers a good vantage point from which to observe the interaction between learning (values that are present in L2 but not in L1) and unlearning (values that are present in L1 but not in L2) in the acquisition of L2 forms that are structurally but not functionally similar to L1 forms. An experimental study based on acceptability judgements shows that while a long and intense exposure to the L2 input allows both learning and unlearning, formal L2 instruction with little exposure to input is less successful: unlearning of non-target values is only reached by advanced speakers, who moreover generalise the inhibition of the L1-transfer to values that are accepted by L2-native speakers. This suggests that in cases like the one under investigation here a focused pedagogical intervention may be useful.

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