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Ochsenbauer, Anne-Katharina and Hickmann, Maya (2010): Children's verbalizations of motion events in German. In: Cognitive Linguistics, Vol. 21, No. 2, SI: pp. 217-238 [PDF, 354kB]


Recent studies in language acquisition have paid much attention to linguistic diversity and have begun to show that language properties may have an impact on how children construct and organize their representations. With respect to motion events, Talmy (2000) has proposed a typological distinction between satellite-framed (S) languages that encode PATH in satellites, leaving the verb root free for the expression of MANNER, and verb-framed (V) languages that encode PATH in the verb, requiring MANNER to be expressed in the periphery of the sentence. This distinction has lead to the hypothesis (Slobin 1996) that MANNER should be more salient for children learning S-languages, who should have no difficulty combining it with PATH, as compared to those learning V-languages. This hypothesis was tested in a corpus elicited from German children and adults who had to verbalize short animated cartoons showing motion events, and the results are compared with previous analyses of French and English corpora elicited in an identical situation (Hickmann et al. 2009). As predicted, and as previously found for English, German children from three years on systematically express both MANNER (in the verb root) and PATH (in particles), in sharp contrast to French children, who rarely package MANNER and PATH together. These results suggest that, when they are engaged in communication, children construct spatial representations in accordance with the particular properties of their mother tongue. Future research is necessary to determine the extent to which cross-linguistic differences in production may reflect deeper differences in the allocation of attention and in conceptual organization.

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