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Reyhan Furman defends PhD on June 20
Reyhan Furman of MPI's Communication before Language Group and the Centre for Language Studies (RU) will defend her thesis 'Caused Motion Events in Turkish: Verbal and Gestural Representation in Adults and Children' on June 20 at 13:30, in the Radboud University aula. One of her key findings is that, from the start, children are tuned into language-specific patterns both in their speech and gesture.
In order to talk about daily events, people have to break their perceptual experience into units and map these onto words. Caused motion events (e.g. a boy pulls a box into a room) are basic events where an agent (the boy) performs an action (pulling) that causes a figure (box) to move in a spatial path (into) to a goal (the room). These semantic elements are mapped onto lexical and syntactic structures differently across languages.
Motion events in Turkish
In her dissertation, Reyhan Furman investigates the encoding of caused motion events in Turkish, and the development of this encoding in speech and gesture. Specifically, she examines adult speakers’ encoding of caused motion through grammaticality judgements and elicited narratives. Her research focuses on how children aged 1 to 5 encode caused motion in spontaneous speech and elicited narratives, and compares children’s encoding to that of adults.
Supplement with gestures
Furman's linguistic analysis shows that Turkish does not fully fit into the expected typological patterns. She also found that the encodings of caused motion expressions are determined by the fine-grained lexical semantics of a verb, together with the syntactic construction in which the verb is integrated. An event description study with adults and children, as well as an analysis of the longitudinal video corpus of the spontaneous interactions of Turkish-speaking children aged 1 to 3, show that Turkish speakers at all ages mostly supplement elements of caused motion (i.e., figure or path) with their gesture due to argument ommision possibilities in Turkish.
Furman's dissertation furthers our understanding of the interaction between language-specificity and the multimodal expression of semantic information in event descriptions. Her work also contributes to the literature on the development of Turkish.
More information is available at Furman's personal page.