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Academic Paper


Title: Optional elements and variant structures in the productions of bei2 ‘to give’ dative constructions in Cantonese-speaking adults and three-year-old children
Author: Anita M. Y. Wong
Institution: University of Hong Kong
Author: Dorcas C. Chow
Institution: University of Hong Kong
Author: Catherine Mcbride-Cheng
Institution: Chinese University of Hong Kong
Author: Stephanie F. Stokes
Institution: University of Canterbury
Linguistic Field: Language Acquisition; Syntax
Subject Language: Chinese, Yue
Abstract: To express object transfer, Cantonese-speakers use a ‘ditransitive’ ([V–R–T] or [V–T–R] where V=Verb, T=Theme, R=Recipient), or a more complex prepositional/serial-verb (P/SV) construction. Clausal elements in Cantonese datives can be optional (resulting in ‘full’ versus ‘non-full’ forms) or appear in variant orders (full non-canonical and full canonical). We report on usage of dative constructions with the word bei2 ‘to give’ in 86 parents and 53 three-year-old children during conversations. The parents used more P/SV than ditransitive bei2-datives, and vice versa for the children. Both groups showed a similar usage pattern of optional elements and variant structures in their ditransitive and P/SV bei2-datives. The roles of multiple construction types, optional elements and variant structures in children's learning of bei2-dative constructions are described.

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This article appears IN Journal of Child Language Vol. 37, Issue 1, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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