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What can child language tell us about prepositions ?

Abstract : Based on the spatial value of children's first prepositions in English, parallels have been drawn between the acquisition of prepositions by children and the grammaticalization of prepositions in diachrony (Tyler & Evans, 2003). Indeed, studies show that semantically charged prepositions are used by children several months before more functional (or more “grammaticalized”) ones. Yet, other studies stress the fact that ontogeny does not parallel phylogeny (Slobin, 2004). The factors determining the acquisition of prepositions would be linguistic rather than cognitive, and linked to language use and frequency of input (Rice, 1999).
In order to tackle these questions, we conduct a contrastive corpus-based study of French/English acquisition of prepositions. Our findings support the claim that some aspects of children's discourse are influenced by the particular structure of the language the child is acquiring (Talmy, 2003, Hickman & Robert, 2006), together with other parameters such as discursive organization and context. Ultimately, “grammatical words” can express and organize social interaction, and are acquired by children thanks to the mediation of adults.
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Contributor : Aliyah Morgenstern <>
Submitted on : Sunday, April 26, 2009 - 12:26:49 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, November 20, 2019 - 2:28:26 AM
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Aliyah Morgenstern, Martine Sekali. What can child language tell us about prepositions ?. Jordan Zlatev, Marlene Johansson Falck, Carita Lundmark and Mats Andrén. Studies in Language and Cognition, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp.261-275, 2009. ⟨halshs-00376186⟩

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