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postgraduate thesis: A study of generic noun phrases in child Cantonese

TitleA study of generic noun phrases in child Cantonese
Authors
Issue Date2016
PublisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
Citation
Szeto, K. K. [司徒嘉善]. (2016). A study of generic noun phrases in child Cantonese. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b5736688
AbstractThis study investigated how Cantonese-speaking children use and comprehend generic noun phrases. Previous studies revealed that generic noun phrases were found in the speech of English-speaking children at age two. In terms of understanding of the meaning of generic noun phrases, experimental results also revealed that children speaking different languages showed sensitivity to the meaning of a generic noun phrase as different from quantified noun phrases which involved “all” and “some”. However, the development of generic noun phrases was not identical in children speaking different languages. Cantonese offers an interesting case for examining the development of generic noun phrases as Cantonese and Mandarin use the same form (i.e., bare noun phrases) as generic noun phrases yet Cantonese also employs a unique form of using a classifier phrase in the form of di1-NPs as a generic noun phrase which is not found in Mandarin. This dissertation reported findings of the production and comprehension of generic noun phrases by Cantonese-speaking children by using both longitudinal data and experimental data. Longitudinal data from three children between two and three years of age were examined. Adult speech data were also analyzed in order to obtain a baseline for measuring the children’s use of generic noun phrases. An experimental study was conducted to test Cantonese-speaking children’s understanding of the intermediate meaning of generic noun phrases. The experimental study included 24 Cantonese-speaking adults and 72 Cantonese-speaking children in three age groups (three-, four-, and five-year-olds). The task used was a series of yes/no questions which involved three property types (broad-scope, narrow-scope, irrelevant) and four linguistic form conditions (“all”, “some”, bare-NP generic, di1-NP generic). The responses to the narrow-scope items highlight the distinction between generic noun phrases and quantified noun phrases in Cantonese-speaking children as the responses vary as a function of the linguistic form condition. Results from the longitudinal study showed that: (1) Cantonese-speaking children at age two already produced generic noun phrases in their spontaneous speech; (2) Almost all of the generic noun phrases produced by Cantonese-speaking children were bare noun phrases. The use of di1-NP as generic noun phrases was highly restrained; (3) The domain-specificity effect was not apparent in the noun phrases used by Cantonese-speaking children. Results from the experimental study showed that: (1) Cantonese-speaking children treated the two forms of generic noun phrases (i.e., bare NPs and di1-NP as similar in meaning; (2) Cantonese-speaking children showed early distinctions between the meaning of generics and the meaning of “all”; (3) However, Cantonese-speaking at age five have not yet achieved adults proficiency in differentiating the meaning of generics as intermediate between the meaning of “all” and the meaning of “some”. The results were discussed with reference to the proposal that generic meanings are the default interpretations for children. Generics are learned by noticing an absence of cues specifying particular reference.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy
SubjectChildren - Language
Cantonese dialects - Noun phrase
Dept/ProgramSpeech and Hearing Sciences
Persistent Identifierhttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/225207

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.authorSzeto, Ka-sinn, Kitty-
dc.contributor.author司徒嘉善-
dc.date.accessioned2016-04-28T06:50:49Z-
dc.date.available2016-04-28T06:50:49Z-
dc.date.issued2016-
dc.identifier.citationSzeto, K. K. [司徒嘉善]. (2016). A study of generic noun phrases in child Cantonese. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b5736688-
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/225207-
dc.description.abstractThis study investigated how Cantonese-speaking children use and comprehend generic noun phrases. Previous studies revealed that generic noun phrases were found in the speech of English-speaking children at age two. In terms of understanding of the meaning of generic noun phrases, experimental results also revealed that children speaking different languages showed sensitivity to the meaning of a generic noun phrase as different from quantified noun phrases which involved “all” and “some”. However, the development of generic noun phrases was not identical in children speaking different languages. Cantonese offers an interesting case for examining the development of generic noun phrases as Cantonese and Mandarin use the same form (i.e., bare noun phrases) as generic noun phrases yet Cantonese also employs a unique form of using a classifier phrase in the form of di1-NPs as a generic noun phrase which is not found in Mandarin. This dissertation reported findings of the production and comprehension of generic noun phrases by Cantonese-speaking children by using both longitudinal data and experimental data. Longitudinal data from three children between two and three years of age were examined. Adult speech data were also analyzed in order to obtain a baseline for measuring the children’s use of generic noun phrases. An experimental study was conducted to test Cantonese-speaking children’s understanding of the intermediate meaning of generic noun phrases. The experimental study included 24 Cantonese-speaking adults and 72 Cantonese-speaking children in three age groups (three-, four-, and five-year-olds). The task used was a series of yes/no questions which involved three property types (broad-scope, narrow-scope, irrelevant) and four linguistic form conditions (“all”, “some”, bare-NP generic, di1-NP generic). The responses to the narrow-scope items highlight the distinction between generic noun phrases and quantified noun phrases in Cantonese-speaking children as the responses vary as a function of the linguistic form condition. Results from the longitudinal study showed that: (1) Cantonese-speaking children at age two already produced generic noun phrases in their spontaneous speech; (2) Almost all of the generic noun phrases produced by Cantonese-speaking children were bare noun phrases. The use of di1-NP as generic noun phrases was highly restrained; (3) The domain-specificity effect was not apparent in the noun phrases used by Cantonese-speaking children. Results from the experimental study showed that: (1) Cantonese-speaking children treated the two forms of generic noun phrases (i.e., bare NPs and di1-NP as similar in meaning; (2) Cantonese-speaking children showed early distinctions between the meaning of generics and the meaning of “all”; (3) However, Cantonese-speaking at age five have not yet achieved adults proficiency in differentiating the meaning of generics as intermediate between the meaning of “all” and the meaning of “some”. The results were discussed with reference to the proposal that generic meanings are the default interpretations for children. Generics are learned by noticing an absence of cues specifying particular reference.-
dc.languageeng-
dc.publisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)-
dc.relation.ispartofHKU Theses Online (HKUTO)-
dc.rightsThe author retains all proprietary rights, (such as patent rights) and the right to use in future works.-
dc.rightsCreative Commons: Attribution 3.0 Hong Kong License-
dc.subject.lcshChildren - Language-
dc.subject.lcshCantonese dialects - Noun phrase-
dc.titleA study of generic noun phrases in child Cantonese-
dc.typePG_Thesis-
dc.identifier.hkulb5736688-
dc.description.thesisnameDoctor of Philosophy-
dc.description.thesislevelDoctoral-
dc.description.thesisdisciplineSpeech and Hearing Sciences-
dc.description.naturepublished_or_final_version-

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