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The phenomenon of language change in contact has been explored most significantly in speakers of a language who migrate, while fewer studies explore how language is affected across different generations. In this study, we aimed to investigate the role of inter-generational attrition on the production of clitic pronouns and clitic clusters. 86 adult speakers of Italian took part in the study: homeland residents, long-term UK residents, and heritage speakers born and living in the UK from Italian families. Participants were tested on the production of different instances of clitic pronouns including clusters, a novelty of the study, and differences in response distribution were analysed with General Additive Models. Results reveal that the homeland population shows a strong preference for the production of clitics and clitic clusters, long-term residents retain a preference for clitics but not clusters, and heritage speakers disfavour the use of both clitics and clusters across the board, preferring the use of lexical items. This neat pattern of use across generations of migrants suggests a loss of the specificity and preference of clitics through language transmission between different generations of speakers of Italian removed from the homeland and immersed in a non-clitic language.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keywords: intergenerational attrition ; heritage speakers ; attrition ; Italian ; clitics
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