Encoding motion events by Cantonese-speaking children

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Narrating an event is a common linguistic and communicative act in children’s daily life and it reflects children’s discourse competence. Two research questions in narrating motion events have attracted much discussion in the literature: (a) How does a child encode a motion event? (Developmental issue); and (b) How much of this is affected by the specific properties of the native language? (Typological effect on acquisition). In terms of typology of languages, three types of lexicalization patterns of manner and path in motion events have been proposed: verb-framed, satellite-framed and equipollent-framed languages. The purpose of this study is to examine how young children encode motion events in Cantonese narratives, and explores how such findings shed light on the issue of Chinese in the debate of lexicalization typology and language development. The data of this presentation come from 30 five-year-old Cantonese-speaking children enrolled in preschools. The children were asked to tell a story from a storybook (Frog, where are you?) in Cantonese. The narratives were recorded and transcribed for analysis. Results showed that Cantonese children have a larger inventory of manner verbs than path verbs in describing motion events, and the majority of the motion event expressions were so-called ‘serial-verb’ constructions in Chinese. In this presentation, we will discuss our findings in comparison with findings on children expressing motion events in English and other languages, and the implications for the typological effect on the acquisition of Cantonese.

Source Publication

The 35th LAUD Symposium--Cognitive Psycholinguistics: Bilingualism, Cognition and Communication, 2012 Mar 26-29, Landau, Germany

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