Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Gita Martohardjono

Subject Categories

Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Linguistics


Clitics, Differentiated Instruction, Heritage Language Learners, Heritage Speakers, Italian, Italian Dialects


This dissertation examines the acquisition of object clitic placement in Standard Italian by heritage speakers (HSs) of non-standard Italian dialects. It compares two different groups of Standard Italian learners--Northern Italian dialect HSs and Southern Italian dialect HSs--whose heritage dialects contrast with each other in clitic word order. The syntactic constructions tested include restructuring contexts (i.e., constructions in which clitic climbing can take place), and negative first- and second-person informal imperatives. The overarching research question guiding this pilot study is to determine what influences non-standard Italian dialect HSs' clitic placement when learning these constructions in Standard Italian. Three possible sources that may motivate these speakers' clitic placement in Standard Italian are considered: heritage non-standard Italian dialects; universal principles and dominant language transfer (English). A secondary research question of this study investigates whether there is a universal preference for encliticization.

Participants completed two experimental tasks. The first was an Oral Elicited Imitation task that focused HSs' usage of clitics, whereas the second was a Grammaticality Judgment task that examined HSs' explicit knowledge of this property. The overall findings of this pilot study suggest that HSs parallel their heritage dialect clitic word order in their usage of Standard Italian, even though they are aware that another structure is possible in the standard dialect. The results also show only weak evidence to support a universal preference for encliticization, as suggested by the data gathered in previous studies (Bruhn-Garavito & Montrul 1996; Duffield & White 1999; Montrul 2010a; 2010b). A pedagogical implication based on this pilot study's findings is that when teaching standard dialect syntax, pedagogues should differentiate instruction based on learners' heritage non-standard dialectal background.