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Sociolinguistics from the Periphery

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Academic Paper


Title: The communicative contexts of grammatical aspect use in English
Author: Paul Ibbotson
Institution: University of Manchester
Author: Elena V. Lieven
Institution: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Author: Michael Tomasello
Institution: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Linguistic Field: Language Acquisition; Morphology; Semantics; Syntax
Subject Language: English
Abstract: In many of the world's languages grammatical aspect is used to indicate how events unfold over time. In English, activities that are ongoing can be distinguished from those that are completed using the morphological marker -ing. Using naturalistic observations of two children in their third year of life, we quantify the availability and reliability of the imperfective form in the communicative context of the child performing actions. On average, 30% of verbal descriptions refer to child actions that are grounded in the here-and-now. Of these utterances, there are two features of the communicative context that reliably map onto the functions of the imperfective, namely, that events are construed as ongoing and from within. The findings are discussed with reference to how the context in which a child hears aspectual language may limit the degrees of freedom on what these constructions mean.

CUP AT LINGUIST

This article appears IN Journal of Child Language Vol. 41, Issue 3, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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