The Acquisition of Italian Discourse Markers as a Function of Studying Abroad

  • Elisa De Cristofaro
  • Linda BadanEmail author
Original Paper


This paper investigates the effect of a period of study in Italy on the use of discourse markers (DMs) by Belgian–Dutch learners of Italian as a second language (L2). We recorded dialogical exchanges between 8 Belgian–Dutch learners of L2 Italian, before and after an Erasmus exchange of 6 months in an Italian university. The results of our investigation reveal that, both pre- and post-Erasmus, the most used DMs are ‘yes’, ok, allora ‘so, then’, quindi ‘then, therefore’, dunque ‘therefore’, be’ ‘well’. Our research also shows that the main effect of the period of study abroad is the increased variation of the pragmatic functions of DMs used by the L2 speakers. Whereas before the Erasmus, DMs are employed almost exclusively with an interactional function, after the Erasmus their spectrum of functions is broaden to cognitive and the meta-discursive functions. Interestingly, we also observe that after the Erasmus, some DMs are used with different non-target functions: we argue that these uses must be analyzed as interferences with the learners’ language background. We conclude the paper with some remarks on the effect of the period of study abroad on L2 fluency, analyzing the clustering of DMs with filled pauses.


Discourse markers Study abroad L2 Italian L1 Dutch Pragmatic functions Linguistic interference 



We wish to thank Claudia Crocco for her crucial feedback on the design of the experiment, and Koen Plevoets for his precious help on the statistical analysis of the data. We also thank Giuliano Izzo, who helped us to recruit the participants. We are grateful to Ellen Simon, Mathijs Debaene, June Eyckmans and the audience of the sixth edition of the DISROM conference, for their useful comments and suggestions. All errors remain ours.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


  1. Amiridze, N., Davis, B. H., & Maclagan, M. (Eds.). (2010). Fillers, pauses and placeholders (Vol. 93). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, A. H., Bader, M., Bard, E. G., Boyle, E., Doherty, G., Garrod, S., et al. (1991). The Hcrc map task corpus. Language and Speech,34(4), 351–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Andorno, C. M. (2007). Strutturare gli enunciati e gestire l’interazione in italiano L2. L’uso dei connettivi anche, invece, ma, però. In A. M. De Cesare & A. Ferrari (Eds.), Lessico, grammatica, testualità. Acta Romanica Basiliensia (Vol. 18, pp. 223–243). Basel: Universität Basel.Google Scholar
  4. Andorno, C. M. (2008). Segnali discorsivi: tra struttura dell’enunciato e struttura dell’interazione. In G. Bernini, L. Spreafico, & A. Valentini (Eds.), Competenze lessicali e discorsive nell’acquisizione di lingue seconde (pp. 481–510). Guerra: Perugia.Google Scholar
  5. Arguedas, M. E., & Bordería, S. P. (2014). Absolute initial position. In S. P. Bordería (Ed.), Discourse segmentation in Romance Languages (Vol. 250, pp. 121–155). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  6. Bardel, C. (2003). I segnali discorsivi nell’acquisizione dell’italiano L2. In C. Crocco, R. Savy, & F. Cutugno (Eds.), API: Archivio del Parlato Italiano. Napoli: CIRASS [DVD].Google Scholar
  7. Bayer, J., & Obenauer, H. G. (2011). Discourse particles, clause structure, and question types. The linguistic review,28(4), 449–491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bazzanella, C. (1995). I segnali discorsivi. In L. Renzi, G. Salvi, & A. Cardinaletti (Eds.), Grande grammatica italiana di consultazione (pp. 225–257). Bologna: Il Mulino.Google Scholar
  9. Bazzanella, C. (2005). Parlato dialogico e contesti di interazione. In K. Hölker & C. Maaß (Eds.), Aspetti dell’italiano parlato (pp. 1–22). LIT: Münster.Google Scholar
  10. Bazzanella, C. (2006). Discourse markers in Italian: Towards a ‘compositional’ meaning. In K. Fischer (Ed.), Approaches to discourse particles (pp. 449–464). Amsterdam: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  11. Bazzanella, C. (2010). I segnali discorsivi. In L. Renzi & G. Salvi (Eds.), Grammatica dell’italiano antico II (pp. 1339–1357). Bologna: Il Mulnino.Google Scholar
  12. Bazzanella, C. (2015). Segnali discorsivi a confronto. Dati e teoria, un percorso integrato. In M. Borreguero Zuloaga & S. G. J. Ferary (Eds.), Les marqueurs du discours dans les langues romanes: une approche contrastive (pp. 37–50). Limoges: Lambert-Lucas.Google Scholar
  13. Bazzanella, C., & Borreguero Zuloaga, M. (2011). ‘allora’e ‘entonces’: problemi teorici e dati empirici. In E. Khachaturyan (Ed.), Discourse markers in Romance languages, Oslo Studies in Language, 3(1), 7–45 (ISSN 1890-9639).Google Scholar
  14. Bazzanella, C., Bosco, C., Garcea, A., Fivela, B. G., Miecznikowski, J., & Brunozzi, F. T. (2007). Italian allora, French alors: Functions, convergences and divergences. Catalan Journal of Linguistics,6(1), 9–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Bini, M., & Pernas, A. (2008). Marcadores discursivos en los primeros estadios de adquisicion del italiano L2. In R. Monroy & A. Sanchez (Eds.), 25 años de Lingüística Aplicada en España: hitos y retos. Actas del VI Congreso de la Asociación Española de Lingüística Aplicada (AESLA) (pp. 25–32). Murcia: [CD-Rom].Google Scholar
  16. Bolly, C., & Degand, L. (2009). Quelle (s) fonction (s) pour donc en français oral?: Du connecteur conséquentiel au marqueur de structuration du discours. Lingvisticae Investigationes,32(1), 1–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Borreguero Zuloaga, M. (2009). I connettivi avversativi nei testi scritti degli apprendenti ispanofoni di italiano L. In E. Corino & C. Marello (Eds.), VALICO: Studi di linguistica e didattica (pp. 51–69). Perugia: Guerra.Google Scholar
  18. Borreguero Zuloaga, M. (2015). A vueltas con los marcadores del discurso: de nuevo sobre su delimitacion y sus funciones. In A. Ferrari, L. Lala, & R. Stojmenova (Eds.), Testualità. Fondamenti, unità, relazioni (pp. 151–170). Firenze: Franco Cesati.Google Scholar
  19. Borreguero Zuloaga, M., Pernas Izquierdo, P., & Gillani, E. (2017). Metadiscursive functions and discourse markers in L2 Italian. In A. P. Loureiro, C. Carapinha, & C. Plag (Eds.), Marcadores discursivos e (m) tradução. Coimbra: Coimbra University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Borreguero Zuloaga, M., & Thörle, B. (2016). Discourse markers in second language acquisition. Language, Interaction and Acquisition,7(1), 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ceković, N. (2014). I segnali discorsivi nell’interlingua degli studenti universitari di italiano L2. Italica Belgradensia,2(1), 193–210.Google Scholar
  22. Chambers, F. (1997). What do we mean by fluency? System,25(4), 535–544.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Clark, H. H., & Tree, J. E. F. (2002). Using uh and um in spontaneous speaking. Cognition,84(1), 73–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Crible, L. (2018). Discourse markers and (Dis) fluency: Forms and functions across languages and registers (Vol. 286). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Crible, L., Degand, L., & Gilquin, G. (2017). The clustering of discourse markers and filled pauses. Languages in Contrast,17(1), 69–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. De Marco, A. (2016). The use of discourse markers in L2 Italian. Language, Interaction and Acquisition,7(1), 67–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Degand, L., & Gilquin, G. (2013). The clustering of ‘fluencemes’ in French and English. In 7th international contrastive linguistics conference (ICLC 7)-3rd conference on using Corpora in contrastive and translation studies (UCCTS 3). Google Scholar
  28. Fedriani, C., & Sansò, A. (Eds.). (2017). Pragmatic markers, discourse markers and modal particles: New perspectives. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  29. Ferré, G. (2011). Multimodal Analysis of Discourse Markers’ donc’, ‘alors’ and ‘en fait’ in Conversational French. In ICPhS VXII (pp. 671–674).Google Scholar
  30. Fox, A. B. (2010). Introduction. In N. Amiridze, B. H. Davis, & M. Maclagan (Eds.), Fillers, pauses and placeholders (Vol. 93, pp. 1–9). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Fraser, B. (1999). What are discourse markers? Journal of Pragmatics,31(7), 931–952.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Freed, B. F. (Ed.). (1995). Second language acquisition in a study abroad context (Vol. 9). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing.Google Scholar
  33. Freed, B. F. (1998). An overview of issues and research in language learning in a study abroad setting. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad,4(2), 31–60.Google Scholar
  34. Götz, S. (2013). Fluency in native and nonnative English speech (Vol. 53). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hansen, M. B. M. (1997). Alors and donc in spoken French: A reanalysis. Journal of Pragmatics,28(2), 153–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hasselgren, A. (2002). Learner corpora and language testing: Smallwords as markers of learner fluency. In S. Granger, J. Hung, S. Petch-Tyson (Eds.),  Computer learner corpora, second language acquisition, and foreign language teaching (Vol. 6, pp. 143–174). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Jafrancesco, E. (2015). L’acquisizione dei segnali discorsivi in italiano L2. Italiano LinguaDue,7(1), 1–39.Google Scholar
  38. Krashen, S. D. (1985). The input hypothesis: Issues and implications. Boston: Addison-Wesley Longman Ltd.Google Scholar
  39. Lindbladh, S. (2015). La semantica e pragmatica dei segnali discorsivi italiani. Un confronto tra bene, va bene, va be’. Göteborg University.,%20text,%20seminarium%2027%20okt.pdf.
  40. Marriott, H. E. (1995). The Acquisition of Politeness Patterns by Exchange Students in Japan. In B. Freed (Ed.), Second Language Acquisition in a Study Abroad Context, 197–224. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  41. Martinsen, R. A. (2010). Short-term study abroad: Predicting changes in oral skills. Foreign Language Annals,43(3), 504–530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mascherpa, E. (2016). I segnali discorsivi allora, quindi, però, ma in apprendenti di italiano L2/The use of discourse markers in learners of Italian as L2. Cuadernos de Filología Italiana,23, 119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Möhle, D., & Raupach, M. (1983). Planen in der Fremdsprach. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  44. Nigoević, M., & Sučić, P. (2012). Competenza pragmatica in italiano L2: l’uso dei segnali discorsivi da parte degli apprendenti croati. Italiano LinguaDue,3(2), 94.Google Scholar
  45. Olynyk, M., D’Anglejan, A., & Sankoff, D. (1987). A quantitative and qualitative analysis of speech markers in the native and second language speech of bilinguals. Applied Psycholinguistics,8(2), 121–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Pauletto, F., & Bardel, C. (2016). Pointing backward and forward. Language, Interaction and Acquisition,7(1), 89–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Raupach, M. (1984). Formulae in second language speech production. Second language productions, 114-137.Google Scholar
  48. Schiffrin, D. (1987). Discourse markers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Serrano, R., Llanes, À., & Tragant, E. (2011). Analyzing the effect of context of second language learning: Domestic intensive and semi-intensive courses vs. study abroad in Europe. System,39(2), 133–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Slijkhuis, R. (2016).“Echt niet normaal gewoon”-Een onderzoek naar de semantische functies van’gewoon’in het Roots of Ethnolects corpus (Bachelor’s thesis).Google Scholar
  51. Swerts, M. (1998). Filled pauses as markers of discourse structure. Journal of Pragmatics,30(4), 485–496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Tanghe, S., & Jansegers, M. (2012). Los marcadores del discurso derivados de los verbos de percepción: un estudio contrastivo español: italiano. In II Coloquio Internacional. Marcadores discursivos en las lenguas románicas: un enfoque contrastivo. Ghent University, Department of Linguistics.Google Scholar
  53. Thörle, B. (2016). Turn openings in L2 French. Language, Interaction and Acquisition,7(1), 117–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Towell, R., Hawkins, R., & Bazergui, N. (1996). The development of fluency in advanced learners of French. Applied Linguistics,17(1), 84–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Traugott, E. (2007). Discourse markers, modal particles, and contrastive analysis, synchronic and diachronic. Catalan Journal of Linguistics,6, 139–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Trillo, J. R. (2002). The pragmatic fossilization of discourse markers in non-native speakers of English. Journal of Pragmatics,34(6), 769–784.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Vakgroep Vertalen, tolken en communicatie, Faculteit Letteren en WijsbegeerteUniversiteit GentGhentBelgium

Personalised recommendations