The linguistic encoding of space in child Mandarin: A corpus-based study
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AbstractThis study investigates the acquisition of Mandarin spatial phrases from the perspective of language universality and specificity. The potential language universals discussed in this study include aspect shift (Fong 1997; Smith 1997; Rothstein 2004), and subevent modification (Dowty 1979; Parsons 1990). We propose an event-semantics account for the distribution and interpretation of Mandarin spatial PPs headed by zai '(be) at'. However, in Mandarin, the formation of localizer phrases and the division of labor between zai and dao 'reach, to' in the postverbal position also demonstrate language-specific complexities. We conducted a corpus study of Mandarin-speaking children aged between 1;9 and 6;0, adopting an integrative approach that takes into account multiple factors, including linguistic input, children's knowledge of event semantics, formal complexity, and cognitive development. Inconsistent cues from the input slow down acquisition: children up to 6;0 omitted localizers that are obligatory; 4-year-olds have not acquired the division of labor between zai and dao. Children's early sensitivity to the placement and interpretation of zai-PPs suggests guidance by universal principles. Formal complexity explains why prepositional zai, being more complex than verbal zai, is acquired later. Further, children's cognitive development explains their reliance on deictic pronouns, and their preference to express Goal.
All Author(s) ListDeng XJ, Yip V
Journal nameLinguistics
Volume Number53
Issue Number5
Pages1079 - 1112
LanguagesEnglish-United Kingdom
Keywordschild Mandarin; corpus; event semantics localizer; space and language
Web of Science Subject CategoriesLanguage & Linguistics; Linguistics

Last updated on 2020-07-08 at 02:08