LSCHL 03: The Acquisition and Use of Motion Event Expressions in Chinese

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The Acquisition and Use of Motion Event Expressions in Chinese

Liang Chen
University of Georgia

The study examined the structural and discourse characteristics of habitual descriptions of dynamic motion events in Chinese. It asked how these characteristics develop in children learning Chinese at different ages as contrasted with Chinese speaking adults. Contrasts with written productions by adults were also examined.

In expressions of motion events in Chinese, verbs marking path of movement (jìn “enter”) can either function alone or follow a verb marking manner of movement to form a serial verb construction. The linguistic analysis (Chapter 2) suggests the need of detailed examination of language use in diverse contexts to address the controversy over whether Chinese is best characterized as a verb-framed (Tai, 2003), satellite-framed (Talmy, 1985, 2000), or equipollently-framed (Slobin, 2004) language.

Motion event descriptions in both elicited oral narratives (Chapter 3) and fictional written narratives (Chapter 4) in Chinese exhibited characteristics that have been associated with and/or expected from both satellite-framed languages such as English and verb-framed languages such as Spanish. These hybrid patterns of motion event descriptions in discourse support characterizing Chinese as an equipollently-framed language. Equipollently-framed structural patterns of motion event description were found to emerge early in Chinese children (Chapter 5), while the richness of the most advanced features of motion event descriptions in connected discourse continues to develop throughout preschool and the school years.

These studies, on the whole, suggest a close link between patterns of language structure and patterns of language use, and point to the influence of such patterns on children’s development of motion event descriptions.

ISBN 9783895868672. LINCOM Studies in Chinese Linguistics 03. 144pp. 2007.

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