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LINGUIST List 16.1628

Sat May 21 2005

Diss: Lang Acquisition/Syntax: Chang-Smith:First Lang...

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        1.    Meiyun Chang-Smith, First Language Acquisition of Functional Categories in Mandarin Nominal Expressions


Message 1: First Language Acquisition of Functional Categories in Mandarin Nominal Expressions
Date: 20-May-2005
From: Meiyun Chang-Smith <meiyun.chang-smithanu.edu.au>
Subject: First Language Acquisition of Functional Categories in Mandarin Nominal Expressions


Institution: Australian National University
Program: School of Language Studies, Faculty of Arts
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2004

Author: Meiyun Chang-Smith

Dissertation Title: First Language Acquisition of Functional Categories in Mandarin Nominal Expressions: A Longitudinal Study of Two Mandarin Speaking Children

Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition
                            Psycholinguistics
                            Syntax

Subject Language(s): Chinese, Mandarin (CHN)
                            English (ENG)

Dissertation Director:
Dr. Louise M. Jansen
Prof. J├╝rgen M. Meisel

Dissertation Abstract:

In the present study, I adopt theoretical aspects from the Minimalist
framework (Chomsky 1995), namely the theory of Economy, Merge Operation and
Feature Checking, to account for the acquisition of functional categories
in early child grammar. I focus on the acquisition of functional
categories associated with Mandarin nominal expressions, namely Determiner
Phrase (DP), Number Phrase (NumbP) and Classifier Phrase (ClP), by carrying
out longitudinal studies of two Mandarin speaking children, one monolingual
and the other bilingual. Based on the data from two corpora (starting from
the onset of the one-word stage to the later multi-word stage), clear
developmental sequences, which I categorize in terms of six
phenomenological phases, for the acquisition of functional categories
associated with Mandarin nominal expressions are identified.
Interpretations of the developmental sequences, leading to proposals for
the incremental development of phrase structure representations, together
with tentative rationalizations for why the developmental sequences proceed
as they do are provided.

As a result of my analysis of the two corpora, I demonstrate that at least
one functional head (namely head D) was already manifested in the child's
grammar from the middle of the one-word stage onwards. Both head Numb and
head Cl are instantiated from the second half of the two-word stage (MLU
1.5 - 2.0). However, while instantiated early in child Mandarin, the
grammatical features of these functional heads appear to be
under-specified, i.e., they do not contain all the grammatical features of
those in adult Mandarin. For instance, at least the specifier- and
complement-feature of the head D and the complement-feature of the head Cl
are still missing during the second half of the two-word stage. The
grammatical features of functional heads in Mandarin nominal expressions
are found to be instantiated incrementally in the child's grammar during
the course of development. Overall, the findings of the present study
provide strong support for the Weak Continuity perspective regarding
children's grammatical competence during the earliest stage of syntactic
development.





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