Young adults' inferential reading skills – Recognising implicit and unstated content in Italian L1 and English L2

Sara Gesuato, Elena Pagliarini, Emanuela Sanfelici

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Understanding a written text involves not only making sense of its overtly expressed literal content, but also retrieving its subtly conveyed implied meanings by resorting to contextual clues. This process requires making pragmatic inferences. Previous studies have mainly focused on the processing of scalar implicatures in various populations, such as L2 learners, children, elders and individuals with Atypical Development. However, research on the inferential skills of L1 speakers and Typical Development (TD) young adults, and related to other kinds of implied meanings, is more limited. In this study we investigated the reading comprehension abilities of TD adults in the retrieval of various kinds of meanings in a written narrative text, both in L1 Italian and in L2 English. Adopting a between-subjects design, we administered an online questionnaire, in Italian and English versions, to Italian university students enrolled in various degree courses (54 participants per version). The questionnaire included a reading passage and multiple-choice comprehension items designed to assess the retrieval of 11 units of presupposed information, 4 units of entailed information, and 4 units of unstated content. Our findings partially diverged from previous research: a) the L2 speakers exhibited higher overall comprehension accuracy than L1 speakers; b) entailments were easier to retrieve than presuppositions or unstated information; and c) the L2 speakers’ performance did not appear to correlate with their proficiency level. We offer tentative explanations for these results: i) the students may have had more experience in comprehension tasks in their L2 or may have approached the questionnaire in the L2 with more attentiveness; ii) detecting entailments may be less challenging than other types of content since it involves recognising obvious reformulations of content; and iii) the levels of L2 proficiency were uneven across participants, or the participants’ self-reported L2 proficiency levels might not have accurately reflected the participants’ actual abilities, or at and intermediate/advanced proficiency level, the ability to retrieve meanings in text may be tied to cognitive factors that cut across language varieties.
Idioma originalInglés
Páginas (desde-hasta)1-15
PublicaciónItaliano Lingua Due
EstadoPublicada - 15 dic 2023


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