The study examined the structural and discourse characteristics of habitual
descriptions of dynamic motion events in Chinese. It asked how these
characteristics develop in children learning Chinese at different ages as
contrasted with Chinese speaking adults. Contrasts with written productions
by adults were also examined.
In expressions of motion events in Chinese, verbs marking path of movement
(jìn 'enter') can either function alone or follow a verb marking manner of
movement to form a serial verb construction. The linguistic analysis
(Chapter 2) suggests the need of detailed examination of language use in
diverse contexts to address the controversy over whether Chinese is best
characterized as a verb-framed (Tai, 2003), satellite-framed (Talmy, 1985,
2000), or equipollently-framed (Slobin, 2004) language.
Motion event descriptions in both elicited oral narratives (Chapter 3) and
fictional written narratives (Chapter 4) in Chinese exhibited
characteristics that have been associated with and/or expected from both
satellite-framed languages such as English and verb-framed languages such
as Spanish. These hybrid patterns of motion event descriptions in discourse
support characterizing Chinese as an equipollently-framed language.
Equipollently-framed structural patterns of motion event description were
found to emerge early in Chinese children (Chapter 5), while the richness
of the most advanced features of motion event descriptions in connected
discourse continues to develop throughout preschool and the school years.
These studies, on the whole, suggest a close link between patterns of
language structure and patterns of language use, and point to the influence
of such patterns on children’s development of motion event descriptions.