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It's Been Said Before

By Orin Hargraves

It's Been Said Before "examines why certain phrases become clichés and why they should be avoided -- or why they still have life left in them."

New from Cambridge University Press!


Sounds Fascinating

By J. C. Wells

How do you pronounce biopic, synod, and Breughel? - and why? Do our cake and archaic sound the same? Where does the stress go in stalagmite? What's odd about the word epergne? As a finale, the author writes a letter to his 16-year-old self.

Academic Paper

Title: Acquisition of generic noun phrases in Chinese: learning about lions without an ‘-s’
Author: Twila Tardif
Institution: University of Michigan
Author: Susan A Gelman
Institution: University of Michigan
Author: Xiaolan Fu
Institution: Chinese Academy of Science
Author: Liqi Zhu
Institution: Chinese Academy of Science
Linguistic Field: Language Acquisition; Psycholinguistics
Subject Language: Chinese, Mandarin
Abstract: English-speaking children understand and produce generic expressions in the preschool years, but there are cross-linguistic differences in how generics are expressed. Three studies examined interpretation of generic noun phrases in three- to seven-year-old child (N=192) and adult speakers (N=163) of Mandarin Chinese. Contrary to suggestions by Bloom (1981), Chinese-speaking adults honor a clear distinction between generics (expressed as bare NPs) and other quantified expressions (‘all’/suo3you3 and ‘some’/you3de). Furthermore, Mandarin-speaking children begin to distinguish generics from ‘all’ or ‘some’ as early as five years, as shown in both confirmation (Study 2) and property-generation (Study 3) tasks. Nonetheless, the developmental trajectory for Chinese appears prolonged relative to English and this seems to reflect difficulty with ‘all’ and ‘some’ rather than difficulty with generics. Altogether these results suggest that generics are primary, and that the consistency of markings affects the rate at which non-generic NPs are distinguished from generics.


This article appears IN Journal of Child Language Vol. 39, Issue 1.

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