Does language affect memory of motion? Evidence from English and French children

Abstract : Recent research indicates that language-specific properties affect first language acquisition from early on. For example, typological differences in the lexicalisation patterns of verb- and satellite-framed languages (Talmy 2000) impact the development of motion expression. This paper addresses the still controversial question of whether such crosslinguistic variation also influences children's developing cognition, thereby contributing to the debate regarding the role of language-specific and general cognitive factors in acquisition (Slobin 2004). Two groups (7 and 10 years) of English and French children (N = 107) and two control groups of English and French adults (N = 88) were randomly assigned to one of two conditions of a memory task: (i) in the non-verbal condition, they saw ten short video clips showing motion (Phase 1) whilst repeating syllables (interference task) to prevent internal verbalisation, then saw two variants of each, one correct and one incorrect (wrong Manner or Path), and had to decide as fast as possible which one they had seen before (Phase 2); (ii) a verbal condition aimed to test the impact of production on memory in Phase 2, by asking subjects to verbalise the clips during Phase 1. Irrespective of language and condition, all participants made more errors with Path than with Manner, and more errors overall in the non-verbal than in the verbal condition. In the non-verbal condition, age and language also affected error types: With increasing age, English speakers made fewer errors with Manner and more with Path, suggesting a gradual tuning in to language-specific memory performance patterns. Although French children showed similar tendencies, the reverse pattern occurred among adults, who produced more Manner-errors than English adults. The findings indicate that language aids memorisation in both languages, but that crosslinguistic differences gradually affect children's linguistic acquisition as well as aspects of their cognitive development.
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Contributor : Coralie Vincent <>
Submitted on : Thursday, July 23, 2015 - 11:22:58 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, July 3, 2018 - 11:25:34 AM

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Helen Engemann, Maya Hickmann, Henriëtte Hendriks, Efstathia Soroli, Coralie Vincent. Does language affect memory of motion? Evidence from English and French children. Child Language Symposium 2015, Jul 2015, Coventry, United Kingdom. 〈halshs-01179744〉

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