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The acquisition of Chinese connectives by Mandarin-speaking children

Click to view the dissertation via Digital dissertation consortium
Author Su, Jui-Chi.
ISBN/ISSN 0599280417
Broad Subject Chinese language & literature
General - Arts and Humanities
Language and linguistics
Subject Chinese language - Connectives
Chinese language - Acquisition
Summary Connectives are lexical expressions whose function is to link discourse units at any level. In Chinese, connectives included conjunctions, such as he (and) and adverbs, such as ye (also). This study, which was based on observational data collected in narrative and conversational contexts, investigates the acquisition of Chinese connectives by preschool children between the ages of 3;5 and 5;11. It considers the effect of syntax, semantics, pragmatics and discourse organization on their use. The use of connectives by children was then compared with those of adults.

Concerning syntax, the study found that children's use of connectives marking clause combination increased with age. Connectives marking clause combinations tended to signal semantic relations, whereas connectives marking independent clauses usually signaled pragmatic relations.

Concerning semantics, the study provided evidence that younger children used connectives marking underspecified (general) relations more often than older children.

Concerning pragmatics, the study found that children used connectives to signal a pragmatic relation more often than a semantic one. There were two kinds which signaled pragmatic relations in children's discourse. One was conjunctions, such as keshi (but);the other was conjunctive adverbs, such as jiu (then).

Concerning discourse organization, the study found that children used connectives both locally, that is, to connect adjacent utterances and globally, or to refer to nonadjacent utterances. The older children produced more global-level connectives than younger children.

In comparing the use of connectives by adults and children, a number of differences were found. First, the adults produced a greater variety of segmentation markers than children groups. Second, adults produced significantly more global-level connectives than children. Third, children used fewer connective types than adults. Fourth, the adults produced significantly more connectives that signaled semantic relations than the children. Finally, the adults used more specific connectives than children, who tended to use general connectives.

Language English
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