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The expression of caused motion by adult Chinese learners of English*


Although spatial understanding by human beings tends to be universal, the linguistic system to represent one’s spatial experience varies significantly across languages. This study explores implications of this contrast in the field of second language acquisition by examining how adult Chinese learners of English express caused motion in an experimental situation in which they are asked to describe animation clips showing caused motion with varied types of Manner and Path to an imaginary remote addressee. Our findings showed that across proficiencies, L2 learners acclimated to the target system very rapidly and produced responses that were target-like with respect to the selection of motion components and the syntactic means to organize selected information components over an utterance. These results suggest that the acquisition process of caused motion can be facilitated when L1 and L2 share some typological properties and the target system to be acquired is the simple and unambiguous one of the two typological patterns concerned.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Yinglin Ji, Research Center for Language and Cognition, School of Foreign Languages, Shenzhen University, No. 3688 Nanhai Avenue, Shenzhen City, Guangdong Province, P. R. China; e-mail:
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We would like to thank the British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship, which made an award (pf100022) to the first author in 2010, for their generous financial support of the current study. We would also like to thank the Award of Shenzhen University Distinguished Professorship, which provided support in various forms to the first author, in finalizing this study (contract no.: TP026).

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