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ERIC Number: ED526334
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 205
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-1245-1421-5
Acquisition of Structure and Interpretation: Cases from Mandarin Bare and Non-Bare Noun Phrases
Chang, Hsiang-Hua
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, Michigan State University
Children's production of bare nominals is universal. When acquiring languages disallowing bare nominals, children will develop from the bare to the non-bare stage. However, Mandarin nominals may appear bare or non-bare in various positions with all kinds of interpretations. This dissertation conducts two acquisition studies to examine the production and interpretation of bare and non-bare nominals in Mandarin. The production study examined the spontaneous speech data produced by two Mandarin-speaking children: a girl (2;0-2;6) and a boy (2;10-3;3). Distributional analyses and variation analyses using GoldVarb were conducted to compare children's production of bare and non-bare nominals, taking into consideration various syntactic and semantic aspects. The results show that four variables--MLU, Interpretation, Verb Type, and Aspect Marker--have significant effects on the variation of bare and non-bare nominals. Within the nominal phrase, (1) adjective is the first element children add to a bare noun root (age 2;0). (2) Possessives nominals emerge as early as age 2;1. (3) The order of appearance frequency: possessives, classifiers, numerals, and demonstratives. (4) Non-bare nominals most frequently associate with the object position and the existential interpretation. The comprehension study tested the interpretation of bare and demonstrative nominals among 110 Mandarin-speaking children and adults. The study finds that nominal types and age have significant effects on the interpretation. The findings show that (1) children, like adults, have both generic and existential definite readings for bare nominals. (2) They distinguish between bare and demonstrative nominals by assigning more generic interpretations to bare nominals. (3) They prefer generic readings for bare nominals, as opposed to existential definite readings. Demonstrative nominals also receive a considerable amount of generic interpretations. (4) Two variables significantly affect the interpretation of nominals: pragmatics and non-linguistic properties of the predicates. This study discovers a non-target generic interpretation of Mandarin demonstrative nominals assigned by both children and adults. The individual analysis finds a significantly positive correlation between the generic reading for demonstratives and that for bare nominals, which suggests that the generic reading of demonstratives may result from individual preference. The non-target generic interpretation may also be accounted for semantically and syntactically: (1) Mandarin-speaking children treat demonstratives as a less-specified determiner like the Spanish definite; (2) Mandarin-speaking children project demonstrative nominals as NP, not DP. The production study discovers variables that significantly associate with the emergence of the non-bare nominals and the order of emergence of various nominal-internal elements. The comprehension study reveals empirical data of the interpretation of bare and demonstrative nominals. This dissertation contributes to the understanding of the acquisition of Mandarin noun phrases and sheds light on further intralinguistic and crosslinguistic research. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A