The Italian determiner system in normal acquisition, specific language impairment, and childhood aphasia

Piero Bottari, Paola Cipriani, Anna Maria Chilosi, Lucia Pfanner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The paper presents a comparison of the development of the Italian determiner system in three different populations: normally developing children, a child recovering from childhood aphasia from the age of 3 years, 9 months, and 11 specific language impairment (SLI) children. Data from Italian normal children provide evidence for the hypothesis (1) that no prefunctional stage exists as far as the determiner system is concerned and (2) that the syntactic properties of determiners play an essential triggering role early on. The analysis of the determiner system in the aphasic child has a double interest. On the one hand, it may help to shed light on some of the intriguing questions concerning this type of disorder; on the other, it may be relevant for the discussion of the notion of agrammatism. Results of the morphosyntactic analysis reveal that, apart from timing differences, recovery from childhood aphasia shares important features with normal development. Differently from mean length of utterance (MLU)-matched normal controls and the aphasic child, SLI children omit determiners significantly more often than almost any other functional category or free morpheme. We will argue that the reasons for the SLI children's atypical behavior have to be sought in the nonaccessibility to or in the misappreciation of one fundamental syntactic property of determiners: their role as elements that assign argumenthood to nominal expressions (Szabolcsi, 1987; Longobardi, 1994).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-293
Number of pages11
JournalBrain and Language
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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