Expressing motion events in frog stories in child Cantonese

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

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Talmy’s (1985, 2000) seminal work identified two types in terms of lexicalization patterns in motion events in narratives: verb-framed and satellite-framed languages. He argued that Chinese belonged to satellite-framed language. However, Slobin (2004) argued that a third type of lexicalization exists, namely equipollent-framed language, as illustrated by serial verb languages such as Thai and Chinese. The main objective in the study was to contribute to the debate by investigating how Cantonese children encode motion events. Two specific questions to be addressed in the study are: a) The linguistic devices used to encode motion events in Cantonese by children, and b) The differences/similarities between children and adults in encoding motion events. Sixty Cantonese preschool children (aged 3, 4, and 5) attending local kindergartens were recruited to participate in this pilot study (20 per each group), and twenty adults were recruited for the study as controls. The storybook Frog, Where are you?’ (Mayer, 1969) which contained twenty-four pictures without written texts was used to elicit participants’ motion events description. The story was about a boy and a dog and it depicted a rich array of motion descriptions (Slobin, 1996). All the verbal productions by the subjects were recorded by a digital recorder and transcribed orthographically. With reference to Slobin (1998), we analyzed the types and tokens of path verb and manner verb. In general, Cantonese children and adults have a larger inventory of manner verbs than path verbs in describing motion events. The adult group produced significantly more types and tokens of manner and path verbs than the children groups. A total of 866 types of motion event expressions were produced by the participants. Among them 90% were serial-verb constructions. Usage of manner expression was significantly higher than usage of other types of verb patterns across the age groups.

Source Publication

The 12th International Congress for the Study of Child Language (IASCL 2011), 2011 Jul 19-23, Montreal, Canada

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