How early L2 children perform on Italian clinical markers of SLI: A study of clitic production and nonword repetition

Maria Vender, Maria Garraffa, Antonella Sorace, Maria Teresa Guasti

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40 Citations (Scopus)


Early second language (EL2) learners generally perform more poorly than monolinguals in specific language domains, presenting similarities with children affected by specific language impairment (SLI). As a consequence, it can be difficult to correctly diagnose this disorder in EL2 children. The current study investigated the performance of 120 EL2 and 40 age-matched monolingual children in object clitic production and nonword repetition, which are two sensitive clinical markers of SLI in Italian. Results show that EL2 children underperform in comparison to monolinguals in the clitic task. However, in contrast to what is reported on Italian-speaking children with SLI, EL2 children tend not to omit clitics but instead produce the incorrect form, committing agreement errors. No differences are found between EL2 and monolingual children on nonword repetition. These results suggest that, at least in Italian, EL2 children only superficially resemble children with SLI and, on closer inspection, present a qualitatively and quantitatively different linguistic profile.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150-169
Number of pages20
JournalClinical Linguistics and Phonetics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2016


  • Bilingualism
  • clitic production
  • nonword repetition
  • specific language impairment

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