In this paper we will propose a syntactic analysis of the distribution of auxiliaries in the first stages of acquisition of Italian. The lexical- syntactic structure of verb classes is acquired early on (Lorusso et al. 2005, Friedman 2007): children distinguish between unaccusatives and transitives. The first auxiliary that appears in children’s spontaneous speech is essere (= to be) which selects unaccusative or defective predicates, while avere (= to have), which selects a full sentence with an external argument (namely, transitive predicates), appears later and is not produced and comprehended in an adult-like way. Our hypothesis is that the complexity of verbs affects the production and comprehension of auxiliaries in child Italian. For complexity we refer to the argument structure projected by each verbal head. The verbs which project internal arguments (unaccusatives and transitives) are less complex for their aspectual entailment than the verbs which project only external arguments (unergatives). The sentences involving auxiliaries are aspectually marked: the passato prossimo (=present perfect) tensed constructions, in fact, entail a perfective reading. The aspectual reading of the auxiliary interacts with the aspectual interpretation of each verb class.
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