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Prefabricated input in language acquisition: the syntax of storybooks


Breustedt, Barb. Prefabricated input in language acquisition: the syntax of storybooks. 2008, University of Zurich, Faculty of Arts.

Abstract

Despite decades of increasingly intensive research still many questions remain unanswered in the field of first language acquisition. Among the most widely studied and most diversely argued areas is children’s acquisition of the often complex and versatile verb paradigms found in many languages around the world. This thesis takes up that line of research: it presents a comprehensive description and analysis of verb complementation patterns found in English storybooks and discusses the findings against the background of propositions currently held in the domain of first language acquisition by cognitive-functional, usage-based oriented linguists. On the basis of the findings of a growing body of input studies on spontaneously spoken language they argue that human beings acquire their first language by “simply” drawing upon general cognitive abilities and show how children’s developing language skills syntactically mirror the ambient (spoken) language that they are frequently exposed to. The current work now combines such an approach to language acquisition with detailed, corpus-based analyses of lexical verbs in a so far unconsidered source of input language: children’s storybook texts. Its analyses are based on a specifically compiled corpus of children’s storybooks (CSB corpus). Lexical verbs are categorised according to their degree of transitivity; frequencies of occurrence are then compared within and across categories and contrasted with the findings of other input studies. Furthermore, the occurrence of modal verbs and passive constructions is investigated. The present study thus offers insights into structural differences and similarities between the spontaneous spoken and the “prefabricated” written(-to-be-read) language that English-speaking children encounter early in their lives.

Despite decades of increasingly intensive research still many questions remain unanswered in the field of first language acquisition. Among the most widely studied and most diversely argued areas is children’s acquisition of the often complex and versatile verb paradigms found in many languages around the world. This thesis takes up that line of research: it presents a comprehensive description and analysis of verb complementation patterns found in English storybooks and discusses the findings against the background of propositions currently held in the domain of first language acquisition by cognitive-functional, usage-based oriented linguists. On the basis of the findings of a growing body of input studies on spontaneously spoken language they argue that human beings acquire their first language by “simply” drawing upon general cognitive abilities and show how children’s developing language skills syntactically mirror the ambient (spoken) language that they are frequently exposed to. The current work now combines such an approach to language acquisition with detailed, corpus-based analyses of lexical verbs in a so far unconsidered source of input language: children’s storybook texts. Its analyses are based on a specifically compiled corpus of children’s storybooks (CSB corpus). Lexical verbs are categorised according to their degree of transitivity; frequencies of occurrence are then compared within and across categories and contrasted with the findings of other input studies. Furthermore, the occurrence of modal verbs and passive constructions is investigated. The present study thus offers insights into structural differences and similarities between the spontaneous spoken and the “prefabricated” written(-to-be-read) language that English-speaking children encounter early in their lives.

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Additional indexing

Other titles:A corpus-based study of English verb complementation patterns and their acquisition
Item Type:Dissertation
Referees:Jucker Andreas H, Mukherjee Joybrato
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > English Department
Dewey Decimal Classification:820 English & Old English literatures
Language:English
Date:2008
Deposited On:12 Mar 2009 14:23
Last Modified:04 May 2016 11:59
Number of Pages:198
ISBN:978-3-8381-0116-3
Additional Information:Als Buch hg.: Südwestdeutscher Verlag für Hochschulschriften, 2009
Related URLs:http://opac.nebis.ch/F/?local_base=NEBIS&con_lng=GER&func=find-b&find_code=SYS&request=005567239
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-5489

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