Language-specific and individual differences in the interviews about language and national identity (Corpus of spoken Italian at the University of Oslo)

Elizaveta Khachaturyan, ILOS

The aim of this paper is twofold. First, I will introduce a corpus of Spoken Italian (SILaNa - Spoken Italian: Interviews about Language and Nation) under construction at the University of Oslo (accessible version will be ready in winter 2019). Secondly, I will discuss how this type of corpus can be used for the analysis of different linguistic domains, in particular I will compare the use of discourse markers (DMs) in the answers of different informants and the DMs’ role in structuring the conversation.

The corpus of Spoken Italian at the University of Oslo (UiO) contains the interviews collected with two groups of informants: 1) 20 Italian native speakers (L1) living in Norway (ca. 124.000 words); 2) ten informants (ca. 45.000 words) having lived in Italy for more than ten years and considered “almost native speakers” (L2) of Italian (cfr. F.Pauletto & C.Bardel 2015 about the term quasi nativo “almost native”). Among these ten informants: seven are native speakers of another Romance language, two speak Slavic languages and one – Chinese.

The starting point for the construction of the corpus was the idea that, on the one hand, each language gives us different possibilities to speak about the world (in particular, as it is shown by various tests, cfr. contrastive studies on the event conceptualization in present, i.e. Bylund 2011), but on the other hand, there are also individual differences between the native-speakers of the same language. Within the construction of the corpus we tried to take into account both types of differences and for this reason we created a very similar situation of communication for our informants: the corpus contains not only the same type of communication (semi-conducted interviews), but also the discussion of the same topic (all the interviews are dedicated to the problems of integration in a new society and to the role of language in this process (for more details about the interviews, see Khachaturyan & Camilotti 2017)). To make the conditions of the communication even more comparable the interviewer (as far as the role of the interlocutor is important, i.e., Katriel 1985) and the questions asked to the informants were always the same. As we will see in the second part of the presentation, these common features allow us to compare differences between native and non-native speakers in the way they organize their discourse, as well as individual differences between L1 speakers when talking about the same topic.

To illustrate this, in the second part, I will discuss the use of some DMs when answering questions and structuring the conversation. It is interesting to observe that in the discourse of native speakers, different DMs can be more or less frequent depending on the whole communicative strategy used by the speaker, while in the L2 discourse they are often considered as a sign of learner’s proficiency (Hasselgren 2002). I will analyze in more details the use of the DMs diciamo and insomma. Diciamo is one of the most frequent DMs for L1 and L2, insomma is rarer and its use is often based on individual preferences.



Bylund, E. 2011, Language-specific Patterns in Event Conceptualization: Insights from Bilingualism. In Pavlenko, A. (ed.) Thinking and Speaking in Two Languages. Bristol: Multilingual Matters, pp.108-142.

Hasselgren A., 2002. Learner corpora and language testing: smallwords as markers of learner frequency. In Pons Bordería, S. (ed.): Models of Discourse Segmentation. Explorations across Romance Languages. Amsterdam : John Benjamins. Pragmatics and Beyond New Series, pp.185-218

Katriel T. 1985. Speech in context: Moving towards an integrative perspective. In Informatologia Yugoslavica 17, pp.171-176.

Khachaturyan E. & Camilotti S. 2017. The Place of Language in (Re)constructing Identity: The Case of “Fortunate Immigrants” to/from Italy. In Khachaturyan E. & Grassi S. (eds.) Romance studies (special issue), 35(1), pp.31- 47.

Pauletto F. & Bardel C. 2015 Direi che: strategie di mitigazione nell’interazione di un’apprendente «quasi nativa». In Borreguero Zuloaga M. & Gómez-Jordana Ferary S. (eds.), Marqueurs du discours dans les langues romanes: une approche contrastive. Limoges: Lambert Lucas, pp.425-437.

Emneord: Corpus linguistics, Discourse markers, Spoken Italian
Publisert 14. jan. 2019 11:20 - Sist endret 28. jan. 2019 17:04