Center for Language Research

University of Rijeka

CLAR lecture – PhD Tihana Kraš , Maja Miličević: Anaphora resolution in L1 Italian and Serbian by trainee translators from L2 English. 22.4.2015.

Posted on 09/12/2015

Maja Miličević (Sveučilište u Beogradu), Tihana Kraš (Sveučilište u Rijeci), 22.4.2015., 14:00, Filozofski fakultet, Prostorija 105

Anaphora resolution in L1 Italian and Serbian by trainee translators from L2 English

Recent research shows that translations differ from comparable originals in the same language in areas similar to those found to be problematic in L2 acquisition and L1 attrition; it has also been proposed that the translators’ internal linguistic system undergoes changes similar to the attrition process. Our study addresses these issues by looking at the interpretation of pronominal subjects in Italian and Serbian.

Italian and Serbian subject pronouns can be either overt or null (omitted). In intra-sentential anaphora, null pronouns prefer the subject antecedent, while overt pronouns prefer a non-subject antecedent. Sorace and Filiaci (2006) and Tsimpli et al. (2004) showed that Italian L2 learners and L1 attriters whose other language is English select the subject as antecedent for overt pronouns more often than (non-attrited) native speakers. Cardinaletti (2005) interpreted the overuse of overt pronouns found in English>Italian translations as an indication of L1 attrition in translators.

To test whether there are signs of change in the L1 of translators, we conducted a study on the resolution of intra-sentential anaphora by two pairs of native speaker groups, English>Italian/Serbian trainee translators and control groups of non-translators. We employed a picture selection task (adapted from Tsimpli et al. 2004) that required participants to read sentences containing null and overt pronouns, which either followed or preceded the candidate antecedents, and to match each sentence to one of three pictures; the pictures showed the antecedent as the subject, the complement or an extra-sentential referent.

The translators did not select the subject as overt pronoun antecedent more often than the non-translators in either condition in either language, leading to the conclusion that at the training stage there is no evidence of incipient L1 attrition in translators. We discuss this finding considering the interaction of source language influence, the length of translation experience and metalinguistic awareness.



Cardinaletti, A. (2005). La traduzione: un caso di attrito linguistico. In A. Cardinaletti and G. Garzone (Eds) L’italiano delle traduzioni. Milano: FrancoAngeli. 59–83.

Sorace, A. and Filiaci, F. (2006). Anaphora resolution in near-native speakers of Italian. Second Language Research 22. 339–368.

Tsimpli, I., Sorace, A., Heycock, C. and Filiaci, F. (2004). First language attrition and syntactic subjects: A study of Greek and Italian near-native speakers of English. International Journal of Bilingualism 8. 257–277.

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