The role of shape in the acquisition of Tzeltal (Mayan) locatives

Brown, P. (1993). The role of shape in the acquisition of Tzeltal (Mayan) locatives. In E. V. Clark (Ed.), Proceedings of the 25th Annual Child Language Research Forum (pp. 211-220). Stanford, CA: CSLI/University of Chicago Press.
In a critique of the current state of theories of language acquisition, Bowerman (1985) has argued forcibly for the need to take crosslinguistic variation in semantic structure seriously, in order to understand children's acquisition of semantic categories in the process of learning their language. The semantics of locative expressions in the Mayan language Tzeltal exemplifies this point, for no existing theory of spatial expressions provides an adequate basis for capturing the semantic structure of spatial description in this Mayan language. In this paper I describe some of the characteristics of Tzeltal locative descriptions, as a contribution to the growing body of data on crosslinguistic variation in this domain and as a prod to ideas about acquisition processes, confining myself to the topological notions of 'on' and 'in', and asking whether, and how, these notions are involved in the semantic distinctions underlying Tzeltal locatives.
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