Article published in:Discourse Markers in Second Language Acquisition / Les marqueurs discursifs dans l’acquisition d’une langue étrangère: Studies on Italian and French as L2 / Études en italien et en français langues étrangères
Edited by Margarita Borreguero Zuloaga and Britta Thörle
[Language, Interaction and Acquisition 7:1] 2016
► pp. 17–43
Confirming or asserting?
Conflicting values and cross-linguistic influence in the use of yes/no particles in L2 Italian
Yes and no allow an easy management of talk-in-interaction and, unlike other classes of discourse markers, occur from early stages of L2 acquisition onwards (Perdue 1993; Bernini 1996, 2000; Andorno 2008a for L2 Italian). However, problems in their use can arise in replies to negative utterances such as “Didn’t you hear the news?”, “You didn’t read the news, did you?”, as in this case speakers have to choose one of the two conflicting values possibly encoded by the particles — either asserting a positive/negative polarity for the proposition at issue or confirming/reversing the negative polarity conveyed by the previous speaker. Since Pope (1973), a distinction has been drawn between languages with polarity-oriented particles, such as English yes/no, and languages with agreement-oriented particles, such as Japanese hai/iie. The study compares the use of Italian sì/no and other routines such as echo-constructions in native speakers and L2 learners with either a polarity-oriented or an agreement-oriented L1. Results show that cross-linguistic influence can affect the use of sì/no in L2, as pointed for other domains of pragmatic competence (Gass & Selinker 1992; Kasper 1992; Jarvis & Pavlenko 2008). Results further show that, even when learners lack pragmalinguistic competence in the use of particles, they treat replies of confirmation or rejection differently, thus revealing sociopragmatic sensitivity similar to that of native speakers in recognising the markedness of disagreement replies.
Keywords: L2 Italian, discourse markers, pragmatic transfer, agreement, polarity
Published online: 30 August 2016
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