Intensification in Written L2 Italian in South Tyrol

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  • Project duration: -
  • Project status: finished
  • Funding:
    Provincial P.-L.P. 14. Mobility (Province BZ funding /Project)

This project falls within the research framework of Learner Corpus Research (LCR), which has the general aim of analysing the second language acquisitional processes through the systematic use of learner corpora.

Intensification is the use of any linguistic device that scales a quality, by establishing different degrees of that given quality (es. given the quality “beautiful” in Italian in È una bella città, this quality could be intensified by saying: È una città bellissima / davvero bella/ proprio bella / veramente bella / superbella, etc.). Intensification is a linguistic phenomenon of considerable interest, which is, however, under-researched in the field of L2 acquisition, especially in the case of languages other than English. It is therefore a new and original topic, especially with regard to the mechanisms involved in its acquisition and use in second languages. The possibility of grading a given quality adds expressive richness to linguistic productions and influences the listener’s reception of the message. Intensification has a general heightening effect, scaling upwards from an assumed norm. This increase in the “volume” of the message represents a subjective flavour that the speaker intends to give to his utterance, in order to produce an effect on the listener. In this sense, intensification is a step forward in the way learners acquire a more sophisticated awareness of the possibilities of language, and is therefore highly relevant to LCR.

In addition to considering a scarcely researched phenomenon in acquisitional research, especially with regard to L2 Romance languages like Italian, the project is also innovative because it adopts an empirical and corpus-based approach, and aims at analysing the ways learners produce phenomena of intensification through sophisticated statistical methodologies, combining exploratory and confirmatory approaches in two different studies. In recent years, LCR increasingly called for a stronger integration of different methods and approaches. In response to these demands, a further form of integration envisaged by the project is that among cross-sectional, longitudinal and contrastive perspectives: the latter is used to uncover possible acquisitional differences between L2 Italian and German.

A final character of originality is the choice of young learners of Italian as a second language as the focus of the project. This choice is particularly significant in a context as South Tyrol, as it provides insights on how a specific phenomenon is characterised and evolves at school age within a multilingual repertoire.


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Höder, S. (2018). Grammar is community-specific. Background and basic concepts of Diasystematic Construction Grammar. In H. Boas & S. Höder (Eds), Constructions in Contact. Constructional perspectives on contact phenomena in Germanic languages (37-70), Benjamins. 

Lorenz, G. 1999. Adjective intensification - learners versus native speakers: A corpus study of argumentative writing, Rodopi. 

Pérez-Paredes, P.  & Díez-Bedmar M.B.  (2012). The Use of Intensifying Adverbs in Learner Writing.  In Y.  Tono, Y.  K. Makoto Minegishi  (eds), Developmental   and   Crosslinguistic   Perspectives   in   Learner   Corpus   Research (105–124), Benjamins. 

Van Goethem, K., & Hendrikx, I. (2021). Intensifying constructions in second language acquisition. A diasystematic-constructionist approach. Constructions in Contact 2: Language change, multilingual practices, and additional language acquisition (376–428), Benjamins 

Project Team
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Stefania Spina

Stefania Spina

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