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LINGUIST List 19.690

Fri Feb 29 2008

Diss: Lang Acq/Psycholing: Selimis: 'Linguistic Coding of the Conce...'

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        1.    Efstathios Selimis, Linguistic Coding of the Concept of Motion: Literal and metaphorical expressions in adult and child Greek

Message 1: Linguistic Coding of the Concept of Motion: Literal and metaphorical expressions in adult and child Greek
Date: 29-Feb-2008
From: Efstathios Selimis <sselimisyahoo.gr>
Subject: Linguistic Coding of the Concept of Motion: Literal and metaphorical expressions in adult and child Greek
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Institution: University of Athens
Program: Department of Early Childhood Education, Irakleitos Fellowship
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2007

Author: Efstathios Selimis

Dissertation Title: Linguistic Coding of the Concept of Motion: Literal and metaphorical expressions in adult and child Greek

Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition

Subject Language(s): English (eng)
                            Greek (ell)

Dissertation Director:
Eleni Antonopoulou
Kiki Nikiforidou
Demetra Katis

Dissertation Abstract:

Linguistic representations of motion are investigated, in order to
contribute to the question of how language effects conceptualization at the
moment of speaking. Both literal expressions of physical motion as well as
their non-literal extensions to encode more abstract phenomena, such as
temporal changes, are analyzed. In a developmental and cross-linguistic
approach, data from Greek children and adults is partly compared with
corresponding data from English.

Three studies on physical motion focus upon Manner and Path elements in the
verb phrase, testing theoretical and empirical claims that typological
differences in the way languages code for motion effect speakers' attention
to Manner. They compare descriptions of motion events in Greek and English,
a verb-framed and a satellite-framed language respectively - the former
coding Path in the verb and Manner in optional adjuncts and the latter
coding Manner in the verb and Path in satellites. Three types of discourse
are analyzed: spontaneous conversations between children and adults in the
age range of 1;8-4;6 years as well as two types of narratives by children
aged 4, 7 and 10 years and adults. The narratives were elicited through
pictures and a film, with the interviewer having no recourse to the latter
whatsoever. Results show, on the one hand, predictable cross-linguistic
differences. Greater attention is paid to Manner in English than in Greek,
with the difference arising even at the age of 2 years and increasing in
adults. On the other hand, similarities are also occasionally noted across
ages and languages (e.g. limited repertories of Manner verbs in the picture
narratives). This is reflected in differences being sharper and earlier in
the conversations, somewhat less so in the film narratives and least of all
in the picture narratives. Such complicated patterns are, nonetheless,
argued to not counteract the effect of language structure on speech habits,
but to highlight instead how research results can be effected by the
content of discourse (e.g. restricted chances for Manner in the picture
narratives but abundant in the conversations) and its communicative
exigencies (e.g. greater need felt by speakers to explicitly code Path and
Manner information in the film relative to the picture narratives).

Three more studies examine the development of abilities to produce and
understand non-literal uses of motion verbs. Based on the conversations
noted above, one study reveals various types of non-literality in both
Greek and English child and child-directed speech, some even earlier than 2
years. Such evidence supports recent findings on spontaneous child speech
which follow the cognitive semantics conception of figurativity as a basic
and often conventionalized phenomenon of language. The remaining two
studies focus upon how metaphoric motion in narratives is used and
comprehended by Greek children aged 3-10 years. Results show such abilities
even at 3 years, but also their gradual enrichment with age both in
frequency and variety of non-literality. Therefore, traditional claims that
acquisition of figurative language is a long-term process are also not
undermined. The developmental sequence suggested for the various types of
non-literal motion (e.g. metaphors, fictive motion) is ascribed to their
degree of cognitive abstractness as well as conventionality. In fact,
relative frequency in the ambient language can even speed up the appearance
of a non-literal type in one language over another.

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