20710499 - GENERAL LINGUISTICS LM (module D)

The LM Course on “Information Structure” falls within the domain of the Complementary learning activities of the MA Degree Course in Modern Languages for International Communication and, specifically, within those activities that are aimed at delving into and enhancing the competences acquired in the linguistic field of analysis.
The Course has the aim of providing: advanced reflection on some theoretical and methodological issues concerning, on the one hand, linguistic analysis (with particular reference to information structure, discourse categories and interface analysis) and, on the other, comparative and typological studies in Italy and abroad, thus addressing students towards novel and original paths of research, in a comparative perspective, for individual investigation on information-structural issues.
Expected learning outcomes: The students will acquire deep knowledge and advanced competences on the theoretical aspects and the methodological tools which are necessary for the interface analysis of information structure phenomena; they will have a wide knowledge of the relevant international literature and will be able to elaborate individual and original research paths.
teacher profile | teaching materials


This course is intended to analyze the interplay ("interface") between syntax, prosody and semantics in the realization and interpretation of discourse categories, also in relation to a hierarchy of functional projections in the left periphery of the sentence. In particular the course will focus on four major issues:
(1) the interpretation of different types of focus (informative, corrective, contrastive, mirative) and its formal realization, both from a prosodic and a syntactic viewpoint (in situ vs. fronted, in matrix vs. embedded clauses) in typological diverse languages. Special attention will be dedicated to postverbal subject in Romance languages.
(2) Different types of Topics and their function in the discourse and in conversational analysis.
(3) The interpretation of Null Subjects and creation of topical chains in consistent, partial and radical pro-drop languages.
(4) Identification of syntactic, prosodic and discourse indexes for the interpretation of information on forums, interviews and social nets.

Core Documentation

• Puglielli, Annarita e Mara Frascarelli (2008). L’analisi Linguistica. Dai dati alla teoria. Roma/Cesena: Caissa Editore (Capitoli 6-7).
• Bianchi, V. (2013). On Focus movement in Italian. In Victoria Camacho-Taboada et al (eds.), Information Structure and Agreement, 194-215. Amsterdam/Philadelphia, John Benjamins.
• Frascarelli, Mara (2007) Subjects, Topics and the Interpretation of Referential pro. An interface approach to the linking of (null) pronouns. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, 25, 4: 691-734
• Bianchi, Valentina e Mara Frascarelli (2010). Is Topic a Root Phenomenon? Iberia: An international Journal of Theoretical Linguistics. Vol. 2.1 (Special Issue on Information Structure), 43-88.
• Frascarelli, Mara (2018) The interpretation of pro in consistent and partial NS languages: A comparative interface analysis. in Federica Cognola & Jan Casalicchio (eds.), Null-Subjects in Generative Grammar. A synchronic and diachronic perspective, Part IIB, Ch. 9. OUP, Oxford/New York.
• Frascarelli, Mara e Giorgio Carella (2019). Topic chains and the interpretation of null subjects: The acquisition of discourse-related strategies in Italian. The Linguistic review.

Type of delivery of the course

The course extends over the first semester with 36 hours of class teaching, during which the different subjects will be treated and discussed. Students will be called to participate actively to relevant discussions, thus obtaining an evaluation "in itinere". Students will be also taught how to create a linguistic questionnaire and analyze intonational contours through dedicated softwares (Praat). Frequency is recommended. No specific program is planned for non-attending students, who are invited to contact the professor in charge. The course will be held in English.

Type of evaluation

Besides an "in itinere" evaluation, obtained through the discussion of the texts included in the reference section, students will have to write an essay (10-15 pages) with the results of a small experiment that will be decided together. This essay will be then evaluated and the student interviewed during the exam. Online oral exams; video conference on Microsoft Teams.