The Acquisition of Clitic Placement in L2 European Portuguese

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


In this talk we present an empirical study on the acquisition of clitic placement in EP by adult Chinese learners which aims to answer the following questions: (1) Do Chinese learners of EP generalize enclisis? (2) Is it more difficult for them to acquire proclisis patterns than enclisis? (3) Are there asymmetries in the acquisition of the different proclitic contexts? (4) If so, what is the acquisition order? As their L1 does not have clitic pronouns, development of the syntactic properties related to clitic placement in EP will only occur if learners are able to acquire the relevant new functional properties - predicted to be possible by FT/FA but not by the IH.
Two tasks were used: an untimed acceptability judgement task (72 test items and 36 distractors), as well as a centered auto-paced reading task (20 test items and 16 distractors). 58 Chinese students of Portuguese from a university in Shanghai and a control group of 26 native speakers of EP participated in the study. In both two tasks, the participants were asked to judge the sentences presented on the screen, on a scale of 1 (completely unacceptable) to 5 (perfectly acceptable).
The preliminary results we obtained suggest that, in the acceptability judgement task, the Chinese participants tend to follow a certain development path in the acquisition of clitic placement, with better performance in enclisis contexts, more difficulty and asymmetries in the acquisition of the different proclitic contexts, as observed in previous works on L1 EP and FL EP with other L1s, but display signs of development of the syntactic properties related to clitic placement. The centered auto-paced reading task seems to show, instead, some instability in the “acquired” knowledge. We will continue this study with some further statistical analysis.
Period2 Jul 2021
Event title30th Conference of the European Second Language Association
Event typeConference
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Clitic pronoun
  • Placement
  • Second language acquisition
  • Chinese learners
  • European Portuguese