Putting things in places: Developmental consequences of linguistic typology

Bowerman, M., Brown, P., Eisenbeiss, S., Narasimhan, B., & Slobin, D. I. (2002). Putting things in places: Developmental consequences of linguistic typology. In E. V. Clark (Ed.), Proceedings of the 31st Stanford Child Language Research Forum. Space in language location, motion, path, and manner (pp. 1-29). Stanford: Center for the Study of Language & Information.
This study explores how adults and children describe placement events (e.g., putting a book on a table) in a range of different languages (Finnish, English, German, Russian, Hindi, Tzeltal Maya, Spanish, and Turkish). Results show that the eight languages grammatically encode placement events in two main ways (Talmy, 1985, 1991), but further investigation reveals fine-grained crosslinguistic variation within each of the two groups. Children are sensitive to these finer-grained characteristics of the input language at an early age, but only when such features are perceptually salient. Our study demonstrates that a unitary notion of 'event' does not suffice to characterize complex but systematic patterns of event encoding crosslinguistically, and that children are sensitive to multiple influences, including the distributional properties of the target language, in constructing these patterns in their own speech.
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