But Are They Really Verbs? Chinese Words for Action

Twila Tardif

in Action Meets Word

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780195170009
Published online April 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199893300 | DOI:
But Are They Really Verbs? Chinese Words for Action

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This chapter focuses on what properties Chinese verbs may have to facilitate the process of verb learning in Chinese, much as properties of nouns may afford the learning of nouns. In Chinese, but not English, verbs are highly specified and there is little resorting to “general purpose” or “light” verbs as there is in English simply because these general-purpose verb terms do not exist. In contrast, Chinese speakers often resort to general-purpose types of nouns (e.g. che1, vehicle) even though they have more specific labels which would correspond to the myriad of specific object nouns which young children acquire early in English (e.g. car, truck, motorcycle, bicycle, bus). Previous theories on the nature of word learning and particularly those focused on explaining the noun bias have discussed various features of nouns and verbs which may work together with innate perceptual and conceptual constraints to facilitate the learning of nouns and hinder the learning of verbs. However, it is argued that some of these features may not be true across all languages. Specifically, whereas these prior theories have allowed for cross-linguistic differences in specific features such as syntactic markings and inflections, word order, and differences in the extent to which manner and path are lexicalized within the verb itself, there is a need to also consider the nature of the words themselves and how they are organized into a coherent noun or verb lexicon in a particular language.

Keywords: Chinese words; Chinese verbs; verb learning; properties of nouns

Chapter.  9645 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Developmental Psychology

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