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Academic Paper


Title: Perspective-shifts in Event Descriptions in Tamil Child Language
Author: Bhuvana Narasinham
Email: click here TO access email
Homepage: http://www.mpi.nl/world/persons/profession/bhuvana.html
Institution: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
Author: Marianne Gullberg
Institution: Lund University
Linguistic Field: Psycholinguistics
Subject Language: Tamil
Abstract: Children are able to take multiple perspectives in talking about entities and events. But the nature of children's sensitivities to the complex patterns of perspective-taking in adult language is unknown. We examine perspective-taking in four- and six-year-old Tamil-speaking children describing placement events, as reflected in the use of a general placement verb (veyyii 'put') versus two fine-grained caused posture expressions specifying orientation, either vertical (nikka veyyii 'make stand') or horizontal (paDka veyyii 'make lie'). We also explore whether animacy systematically promotes shifts to a fine-grained perspective. The results show that four- and six-year-olds switch perspectives as flexibly and systematically as adults do. Animacy influences shifts to a fine-grained perspective similarly across age groups. However, unexpectedly, six-year-olds also display greater overall sensitivity to orientation, preferring the vertical over the horizontal caused posture expression. Despite early flexibility, the factors governing the patterns of perspective-taking on events are undergoing change even in later childhood, reminiscent of U-shaped semantic reorganizations observed in children's lexical knowledge. The present study points to the intriguing possibility that mechanisms that operate at the level of semantics could also influence subtle patterns of lexical choice and perspective-shifts.

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This article appears IN Journal of Child Language Vol. 33, Issue 1, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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