The role of qualia structure in Mandarin children acquiring noun-modifying constructions

Liu Zhaojing, Wing Shan Angel Chan

Research output: Chapter in book / Conference proceedingConference article published in proceeding or bookAcademic researchpeer-review

Abstract

This paper investigates the types and the developmental trajectory of noun modifying constructions (NMCs), in the form of [Modifier + de + (Noun)], attested in Mandarin-speaking children's speech from a semantic perspective based on the generative lexicon framework (Pustejovsky, 1995). Based on 1034 NMCs (including those traditionally defined as relative clauses (RCs)) produced by 135 children aged 3 to 6 from a cross-sectional naturalistic speech corpus "Zhou2" in CHILDES, we analyzed the relation between the modifier and the head noun according to the 4 major roles of qualia structure: formal, constitutive, telic and agentive. Results suggest that (i) NMCs expressing the formal facet of the head noun's meaning are most frequently produced and acquired earliest, followed by those expressing the constitutive quale, and then those expressing the telic or the agentive quale; (ii) RC-type NMCs emerge either alongside the other non-RC type NMCs at the same time, or emergelater than the other non-RC type NMCs for the constitutive quale; and (iii) the majority of NMCs expressing the agentive and telic quales are those that fall within the traditional domain of RCs (called RC-type NMCs here), while the majority of NMCs expressing the formal and the constitutive quales are non-RC type NMCs. These findings are consistent with: (i) the semantic nature and complexity of the four qualia relations: formal and constitutive aspects of an object (called natural type concepts in Pustejovsky 2001, 2006) are more basic attributes, while telic and agentive (called artificial type concepts in Pustejovsky 2001, 2006) are derived and often eventive (hence conceptually more complex); and (ii) the properties of their adult input: NMCs expressing the formal quale are also most frequently encountered in the adult input; followed by the constitutive quale, and then the agentive and telic quales. The findings are also consistent with the idea that in Asian languages such as Japanese, Korean and Chinese, RCs develop from attributive constructions specifying a semantic feature of the head noun in acquisition (Diessel 2007, c.f. also Comrie 1996, 1998, 2002). This study is probably the first of using the generative lexicon framework in the field of child language acquisition.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 26th Pacific Asia Conference on Language, Information and Computation, PACLIC 2012
Pages632-639
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2012
Event26th Pacific Asia Conference on Language, Information and Computation, PACLIC 2012 - Bali, Indonesia
Duration: 7 Nov 20127 Nov 2012

Conference

Conference26th Pacific Asia Conference on Language, Information and Computation, PACLIC 2012
Country/TerritoryIndonesia
CityBali
Period7/11/127/11/12

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Software

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