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Syntactic Cues to Individuation in Mandarin Chinese1

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Issue Date
2009
Publisher
Institute for Cognitive Science, Seoul National University
Citation
Journal of Cognitive Science, Vol.10 No.2, pp. 135-148
Keywords
individuationnumeral classifiersMandarin –zi morphememass nounscount nounsbare nounsword meaning
Abstract
When presented with an entity (e.g., a wooden honey-dipper) labeled with a
novel noun, how does a listener know that the noun refers to an instance of an
object kind (honey-dipper) rather than to a substance kind (wood)? While English
speakers draw upon count-mass syntax for clues to the nouns meaning,
linguists have proposed that classifier languages, which lack count-mass syntax,
provide other syntactic cues. Three experiments tested Mandarin-speakers
sensitivity to the diminutive suffix -zi and the general classifier ge when interpreting
novel nouns. Experiment 1 found that -zi occurs more frequently with
nouns that denote object kinds. Experiment 2 demonstrated Mandarin-speaking
adults sensitivity to ge and -zi when inferring novel word meanings. Experiment
3 tested Mandarin three- to six-year-olds sensitivity to ge. We discuss differences
in the developmental course of these cues relative to cues in English,
and the impact of this difference to childrens understanding of individuation.
ISSN
1598-2327
Language
English
URI
https://hdl.handle.net/10371/70759
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College of Humanities (인문대학)Institute for Cognitive Science (인지과학연구소)Journal of Cognitive Science (인지과학작업)Journal of Cognitive Science (인지과학작업) vol.10 (2009)
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