Prepositions inside (and at the edge) of words: A view from agrammatism

Ludovico Franco, Elisa Zampieri, Francesca Meneghello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this work, we aim at investigating the performance of an Italian Agrammatic speaker with compound words, with major emphasis on the processing of (complex and simple) prepositions inside words, thus aiming at especially evaluating the performance with prepositional compounds of the [NOUN HEAD-PREP-DEPENDANT NOUN; N-P-N] form (coda di cavallo, horse-tail) and exocentric compounds of the [PREP-NOUN; P-N] form (sopracciglio, eyebrow). Bisetto and Scalise (1999) showed that it is realistic to consider N-P-N items as fully productive compound words in Italian, due to the fact that they obey to a set of classic compound-hood tests.Our results demonstrate that SM is selectively impaired in retrieving the prepositions linking the modifying nouns to their head. Our data can trigger interesting interpretations, from a theoretical viewpoint. In particular, complex prepositions (e.g. fuori, outside), which are produced with no significant problems by SM, are likely to be relational nouns and not functional axial parts (Svenonius, 2006) when involved in the formation of Italian P-N compounds. Otherwise, a deficit in retrieving them correctly would be expected (specific agrammatic deficits for axial parts have been detected in Zampieri et al., 2011). Moreover, a crucial question is raised: are N-P-N real compounds, since they behave very differently from other compounds in SM performance? Possibly, the same underlying architecture holds both when these items are processed as phrased and when they are processed as "lexicalized syntax" in a constructionist fashion (Jackendoff, 2002; Booij, 2005; Starke, 2009). Given the very similar poor performance of SM with both N-P-N compound-like-items and analogous phrases, a unified analysis of this sort is strongly suggested by our study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-122
Number of pages28
JournalLanguage Sciences
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013


  • Agrammatism
  • Compound
  • Italian
  • Mental lexicon
  • Preposition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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