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Grammatical gender in Italian by Swedish-speaking L2 learners: a third age perspective


  • Irene Lami

Summary, in English

The language learning process by third age learners has recently become a field of interest for linguistic research. However, it has been studied mostly regarding psychological and cognitive considerations (stress, motivation, attention, memory, etc.), rather than according to language internal factors.
The present study aims to provide a contribution by investigating the mastery of Italian grammatical gender by third-age Swedish native speakers who are learning Italian as an L2.
The study wants to verify if there are any particular patterns in grammatical gender learning according to the age of the learners, with a focus on third age, especially regarding formal cues (such as phonology, morphology, syntax) vs. semantics.
Our research shows that elderly learners seem to be sensitive to semantics, while younger learners seem to be more sensitive to phonology and syntax; psychological factors seem not to play an important role.
Moreover, contrarily to our hypotheses, we found that elderly informants show a much greater homogeneity in their results, in comparison to young informants, and a greater ability in problem solving.
Another interesting finding is that, in general, elderly informants outperform younger ones who had spent an equal amount of time attending Italian lessons.
In sum: psychological explanations do not seem to justify an age differentiation in gender learning, while language internal factors seem to be at the basis of a general, age-dependent, differentiation.


Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Master's degree (two years)


  • Languages and Literatures


  • Foreign language learning
  • age
  • Italian L2
  • grammatical gender
  • gender agreement
  • geragogics
  • gerontology.


  • Petra Bernardini (Senior Lecture)