Protosyntactic Devices in the Acquisition of Italian Free Morphology

Piero Bottari, Paola Cipriani, Anna Maria Chilosi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article concerns the production of schwa-like elements (Monosyllabic Place Holders, MPHs) before lexical items in early utterances of Italian children. These elements perform the function of protomorphemes, a role testified to by several facts, including the complementary distribution between them and free grammatical morphemes over time. These findings consistently support the idea that functional categories emerge very early and that virtually no “prefunctional” stage needs to be hypothesized for early combinatorial speech. The purpose of this article is twofold: (a) to show that MPHs do not stem from imitation but actually retain important grammatical properties of functional free morphemes, and (b) to show that in the development of free morphology certain syntactic (positional) properties, via the MPH strategy, emerge before full assessment of morphophonological paradigms take place. This implies that learning morphology cannot be conceived of solely as proceeding through a series of inferences about the distributional properties of the single morphological items.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-369
Number of pages43
JournalLanguage Acquisition
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


Dive into the research topics of 'Protosyntactic Devices in the Acquisition of Italian Free Morphology'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this