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Title: The expression of voluntary and caused motion events in Chinese and in English : typological and developmental perspectives
Author: Ji, Y.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2009
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Abstract:
Human spatial understanding is said to be universal and shares the same biological heritage across individuals; on the other, the linguistic systems encoding spatial knowledge vary strikingly. This paradox raises fundamental questions for general issues of (a) language typology and (b) first language acquisition. The present study investigates the expression of voluntary and caused motion events in space by Chinese and English native speakers, across ages, in cartoon-based production tasks. Typologically, it examines the particular properties of Chinese in comparison to English in frameworks proposed by Talmy (2000) (i.e. verb-framed vs. satellite-framed) and Slobin (2004) (i.e. equipollently-framed) for the expression of spatial information across languages. Results reveal Chinese differs from English in terms of how semantic components for motion (Path, Manner, Cause, etc) are selected, encoded and distributed across an utterance, on the basis of which it is suggested that, contrary to the traditional classification of both English and Chinese as being unequivocally satellite-framed, it is more accurate to describe Chinese as an ‘equipollent’ language standing midway along a verb-framed/satellite-framed continuum, as suggested by Slobin. Developmental analysis of the data shows typological properties influence the semantic density of children’s utterances. Regardless of age and task type speakers express denser semantic information in Chinese than in English because of the availability in Chinese of an easily accessible resultative verb compound which facilitates the simultaneous encoding of varied semantic components for motion. Second, a striking developmental progression occurs in English between the ages of 3 to 5 and adulthood, whereas in Chinese such a developmental progression is either significantly less pronounced or virtually absent. Third, evidence is provided for certain universal aspects of development according to the finding that utterance density is significantly lower in young children than in adults, irrespective of language, when motion stimuli become more complex.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.605597  DOI: Not available
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