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Durham e-Theses
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Paths in first language acquisition: Motion through space in English, French and Japanese

Stringer, David (2005) Paths in first language acquisition: Motion through space in English, French and Japanese. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis examines how children attain the linguistic knowledge they need to grammatically express basic trajectories through physical space in English, French and Japanese. In Talmy's (1991; 2000b) descriptive binary typology, 'verb-framed’ languages such as Japanese and French systematically encode PATH (or 'direction') in verbs, whilst 'satellite-framed' languages such as English systematically do so in adpositions. How such phenomena might be formalized is considered in terms of two contrasting hypotheses: (i) the Path Parameter Hypothesis, which suggests binary parameterization at the whole-language level, and (іі) the Lexicalist Path Hypothesis, which suggests that all relevant aspects of PATH predication are determined at the level of individual lexical items. Two experiments with original research methodology were conducted with English, French and Japanese children and adults. In Experiment I, directional predicates were elicited using a purpose-designed picture-story, and in Experiment II, grammaticality judgements were elicited from the same test subjects. Whilst predictions of general tendencies were upheld (strongly for English and Japanese, weakly for French), several findings support a non-parameterized, lexicalist account of PATH predication. First, in all child age groups, the three languages fell into discrete response categories for directional utterances in the absence of an inherent PATH verb. Second, both lexicalization types were found in each language, again in all age groups. Third, the three languages are revealed to have a shared syntax of directional predication, involving the same set of interpretable features and the same set of basic syntactic structures, including a layered pp structure. These findings suggest that whilst the typology remains broadly descriptive, there is no language-particular grammar involved in this variation. Rather, both directional V and a fully articulated pp structure are available in all three languages, show no discernable development, and are presumably part of the machinery of Universal Grammar. Children already understand the syntactic possibilities in the predication of PATH, but must learn the particular complexities of their lexicon, the primary locus of variation in the linguistic expression of motion events.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:2005
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Sep 2011 18:35

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