OVERCOMING DIFFICULTIES IN SUBJECT IDENTIFICATION IN THE ITALIAN LANGUAGE
Identifying the subject in a sentence, especially if the subject is not obvious, is difficult for secondary-school students. The apparent simplicity of this topic might cause one to consider it lightly; however, it should be considered generative for textual comprehension, for the production of cohesive and coherent texts, and for moving from parataxis to hypotaxis. Traditional grammar equates the syntactic notion of subject with the semantic notion of agent and with the communicative notion of topic, giving rise to possible misunderstandings.
The present article offers a proposal that allows one to solve any ambiguity, developing a trajectory with two phases. Firstly, by using a functional criterion within the language (i.e., going from the singular to the plural of the sentence terms), students can correctly identify the subject. Secondly, through a semantic analysis carried out in competence-heterogeneous groups, students inductively comprehend the complexity of the function of “subject”, thereby linking the semantic criterion with the syntactic one.
This analysis, only initially teacher-led, fosters learning by discovery, which brings students to an active, inclusively realised construction of knowledge, and it allows each student to work within their zone of proximal development. This method overcomes traditional “normative” grammar and enhances the student’s centrality: students are not given a ready-made description, but, rather, they are encouraged to build one by actively acting upon on the language.