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Expressions of Motion Events by German, Chinese, and English Native Speakers and German Learners of Chinese and English

Zhang, Can

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Over the past few decades, the field of motion events has received much attention and has been studied extensively. Much of this research is founded on the typological contrasts between verb-, satellite- and equipollently-framed languages (Talmy, 1985, 2000; Slobin, 2004, 2006). This study goes deeper into this typology by looking at the encoded spatial and aspectual concepts as well as the interaction between those two categories in L1s and L2s, with the purpose of finding out whether L1 language-specific differences have an impact upon motion event conceptualization in L2s. The L2 learners in this analysis were advanced L1 German-L2 Chinese and L1 German-L2 English speakers. All speakers (including L1 speakers) watched the same video stimuli showing motion events with different degrees of endpoint orientation and answered the question “What is happening?” During the verbal task, the attention they paid to the area of interest was recorded via eye tracking. The findings revealed that although L2 speakers had generally learned to use the linguistic forms and their corresponding functions, they appeared to be unable to map these forms onto the underlying principles (perspective taking) for the event construal in their L2. Rather, more often, their L1 habitual conceptual patterns had an effect when L2 speakers described motion events. This can be seen in relation to the spatial concepts that L2 speakers preferred to encode (directional and boundary-crossing spatial concepts) as well as in the fixation patterns that L2 speakers tended to use. This suggests that the underlying principles for information organization might be subtle and partly immutable. Therefore, even for advanced L2 learners, the ability to restructure their thinking and seeing for speaking in the direction of the L2 was found to be limited.

Document type: Dissertation
Supervisor: Stutterheim, Prof. Dr. Christiane von
Place of Publication: Heidelberg
Date of thesis defense: 24 September 2020
Date Deposited: 01 Jun 2022 10:08
Date: 2022
Faculties / Institutes: Neuphilologische Fakultät > Institut für Deutsch als Fremdsprachenphilologie
DDC-classification: 150 Psychology
400 Linguistics
420 English
430 Germanic
490 Other languages
Controlled Keywords: psycholinguistics, language cognition, motion events, conceptualization, language production, semantic typology, spatial reference, temporal reference, language comparison, language acquisition, eye tracking
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