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Caused motion across child languages: a comparison of English, German, and French

  • Maya HICKMANN (a1), Henriëtte HENDRIKS (a2), Anne-Katharina HARR (a3) and Philippe BONNET (a4)

Previous research on motion expression indicates that typological properties influence how speakers select and express information in discourse (Slobin, 2004; Talmy, 2000). The present study further addresses this question by examining the expression of caused motion by adults and children (three to ten years) in French (Verb-framed) vs. English and German (Satellite-framed). Participants narrated short animated cartoons showing an agent displacing objects and varying along several dimensions (Path, Manner). A significant increase with age was found in the number of expressed motion components in all languages, as well as an influence of Path (vertical > boundary crossing). However, at all ages, participants encoded more information in English and German than in French, where more variation and structural changes occurred with increasing age. These findings highlight both cognitive and typological factors impacting the expression of caused motion in development. Implications of our findings are sketched in the ‘Discussion’.

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*Corresponding author: CNRS, Laboratoire SFL, 59 rue Pouchet, F-75017 Paris, France. E-mail:
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Journal of Child Language
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