L2 phonetics research | conference proceedings

Presented in this section is work in progress -
not yet peer-reviewed or formally presented
Abstract. This study examined the comprehension of Italian by immigrants from
central or southern Italy who had lived in Canada for an average of 38 years. Most
“Early” learners (individuals who arrived in Canada before age 12 years) and some
“Late learners” (who arrived later in life) comprehended standard Italian very well,
but other Late learners did so poorly or not at all. The comprehension test scores
obtained for Late learners were affected little by length of Canadian residence, but
increased as a function of years of schooling in Italy  prior to immigration.
Frequency of Italian use in Canada also predicted comprehension test  scores but,
surprisingly, the relation was inverse: the more frequently our participants reported
using Italian, the more poorly they comprehended standard Italian.

All of the Italians recruited for this study spoke English, and for many English had
become their primary language due to the fact that the Italian-speaking community
in Ottawa is small. It appears that most Early learners and some Late learners had
also learned standard Italian, or an Italian
lingua franca approximating standard
Italian, as a second dialect (D2) after arriving in Canada. Other Late learners may
have obtained low scores because they did not learn a D2. This we attribute to
their speaking Italian in Canada primarily with persons who spoke the same (non-
standard) form of Italian they had learned as young children prior to arriving in
Canada. At the end of this presentation we outline further tests that might be
administered to a subset of the Italo-Canadians already tested to confirm or
disconfirm this interpretation of the results.

: We would appreciate feedback on this work in progress.
Flege, J., MacKay, I. R. A., & Schirru, C. (2019). Frozen in time: Italian immigrants'
comprehension of their L1. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.17757.46568