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Information structure and choice of perspective in Hungarian narrative discourse: a developmental study Gabriella Fekete Dynamique Du Langage (UMR 5596.

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Presentation on theme: "Information structure and choice of perspective in Hungarian narrative discourse: a developmental study Gabriella Fekete Dynamique Du Langage (UMR 5596."— Presentation transcript:

1 Information structure and choice of perspective in Hungarian narrative discourse: a developmental study Gabriella Fekete Dynamique Du Langage (UMR 5596 CNRS & Université Lyon 2) Syntax of the Worlds Languages lll, Free University of Berlin, September 25-28, 2008

2 Narrative production Organization of events by linguistic expressions Multi-propositional structure Coherence Guide of attention flow in the story

3 Mastery of many linguistic tools BUT Difficulties in the construction of a narration

4 Several linguistic options for the organization of the information flow (Jisa et al. 2002) Constructions in competition for the same function

5 Berman & Slobin (1994) Dimensions of event construal: (a)selection of topic ; (b)selection of loci of control and effect ; (c)selection of event view ; (d)selection of degree of agency.

6 Distribution of information: -Choice of elements -Attribution of salience -Selection of foreground or background

7 Foundations of a basis of reference order of access important Privilege of the initial element (Gernsbacher & Hargreaves 1992, Croft 1994) Initial focus of attention (Langacker 1998) Starting point (MacWhinney 1977)

8 Problem with the terminology starting point Languages with fixed word order (English, French): First element = subject/agent = topic = starting point Equivalents

9 Languages with flexible word order (Hebrew, Spanish, Turkish, Hungarian): First element = subject/agent / direct objet / indirect object In Hungarian: Not obligatory topic clauses beginning with the verb Pro drop+object marking in the verb clauses containing a verbal form S/A, starting point, topic = not equivalents Use of the term « perspective »

10 Several devices for the manipulation of perspective (Berman & Slobin 1994): Transitivity (1) a.The boy was frightened because an owl came out. b. The boy was afraid of the owl. c. The owl frightened the boy.

11 Reference form (2) The boy hung on to the antlers of a deer. The deer/he/which/this one ran away.

12 Voice (3) a. The bees chased the dog. b. The dog was chased (by the bees). c. (fr.) Le chien senfuit. = The dog ran away.

13 Topicalization, Word order (4) a. As for the frog, the boy saw it. b. (hu) A békát nézte a fiú. = The frog(acc.) saw the boy.

14 How do Hungarian children and adults organize the components of information? Which participant do they prefer to take as the perspective?

15 Methodology Subjects 5 age groups : 3, 5, 7/8, and 11/12 years of age, and adults 15 subjects in each group Monolingual Hungarian speakers from middle class backgrounds

16 Task A series of pictures with no text Elicitation of the narrative

17 4 episodes treated here

18 Table 1. Number of subjects, number of clauses encoding the 4 targeted events, mean and range of clauses coded per subject. 3-year- olds 5-year- olds 7-8- year- olds year- olds adultsTotal n15 75 Total number of clauses Mean clauses per subject Range Mean of episodes not mentioned per subject Number of subjects who do not mention all episodes Range

19 Characteristics of the Hungarian Language Agglutinative language of the Finno-Ugrian language family Pro-drop Case-marked grammatical relation for every argument (17 cases) No gender

20 Object marker in transitive verb forms (2 types of conjugation). (5) a fiú meg-ijeszt-ett egy bagly-ot def boy prev-to frighten-past.3S indef owl-ACC the boy frightened an owl a-ki le-lök-t-e a fá-ról rel-animate prev-to push-past-3SO def tree-delative which pushed [him] out of the tree

21 No passive construction Lexicalized verbal form for the middle voice Left-dislocation another register

22 SVO (subject-verb-object) canonical word order - Very flexible - Pragmatically determined (topic- focus-comment) 3 syntactic 3 pragmatic positions = functions Sentence-initial position topic Immediately preverbal position focus Postverbal position background information (comment)

23 Topic = definite and/or animate NP Focus = the most information-bearing element Identification : - the strongest accent of the sentence - pre-verb moved after the verb Post-verbal position = backgrounded / defocused NP

24 Restrictive hierarchy of the position of the argument in perspective

25 Argument in perspective Initial (topic)

26 (6) a. viszont egy ideges vakond meg-csíp-t-e but indef nervous mole prev-to bite-past-3SO az orr-á-t def nose-poss-ACC but a nervous mole has bitten his nose (19;06.d) b. itt meg a kutyá-t el-kerget-ik here and def dog-ACC prev-to chase-present-3PO a legy-ek def fly-pl and here the dog, the flies are chasing it (5;08.f)

27 Argument in perspective Initial ( topic ) Grammatical (subject/agent)

28 (7) a.mert meg-harap-t-a a orr-á-t because prev-to bite-past-3SO def nose-poss-ACC because [it] bit his nose (5;07.b) b. és itt le-dob-ja and here prev-to throw-present-3SO and [it] throws him here (3;07.c)

29 Argument in perspective Initial (topic) Grammatical (subject/agent) Grammatical (object)

30 (8) ugyanis kerget-ik a méh-ek ideed to chase-present-3PO def bee-pl. indeed, the bees are chasing [it]. (21;07.n)

31 Argument in perspective Initial (topic) Grammatical (subject/agent) Grammatical (object) Post-verbal

32 (9) ott le-dob-t-a a szarvas over there prev-to throw-past-3SO def deer a kis-fiú-t def little-boy-ACC over there, the deer has thrown the little boy (8;01.a)

33 Argument in perspective Initial (topic) Grammatical (subject/agent) Grammatical (object) Post-verbal Pre-verbal (focus)

34 (10) mert az odú-ból egy bagoly jött elő because def hole-elatif indef owl to come.past.3S prev because it was an owl that came out o the hole (11;08.f)

35 Results Graph1. Mean (%) of the distribution of intransitive versus transitive clauses in the 4 episodes Intransitive constructions decrease (F (4,65) =2.323,p=.0658) Transitive options increase (F (4,65) =2.045,p=.0984) Intransitive clauses with obliques increase (F (4,65) =.588,p=.6726)

36 Only clauses with at least two participants (transitive clauses, intransitive clauses with oblique(s)) One device alternating perspective in Hungarian Variations in word order

37 Graph 2. Mean (%) of the distribution of positions of the actor/agent perspective in the clauses with two participants in the 4 episodes 3-year-olds: grammatical forms (F (4,65) =.768,p=.5496) 5 and 7/8-year-olds : initial position (F (4,65) =3.022,p=.0238) 7/8-year-olds: post-verbal position (F (4,65) =2.075,p=.0942) 11/12-year-olds and adults: alternance of initial and grammatical positions

38 Graph 3. Mean (%) of the distribution of the position, the characters and the linguistic means used for the actor/agent perspective in the clauses with two participants in the 4 episodes. Secondary characters = actor/agent (F (4,65) =5.172,p=.0011) 3-year-olds: grammatical options (F (4,65) =.522,p=.7199) 5 and 7/8-year-olds: lexical noun phrases (F (4,65) =3.126,p=.0205) 11/12-year-olds and adults: alternance of grammatical and lexical devices 11/12-year-olds: pronominals in remarkable proportion (F (4,65) =5.409,p=.0008)

39 Graph 4. Mean (%) of the distribution of positions of the oblique/patient perspective in the clauses with two participants in the 4 episodes 3-year-olds: grammatical forms (F (4,65) =3.187,p=.0188) 5 and 7/8-year-olds: initial position (F (4,65) =1.222,p=.3103) 11/12 ans and adults: initial position

40 Graph 5. Mean (%) of the distribution of the position, the characters and the linguistic means used for the oblique/patient perspective in the clauses with two participants in the 4 episodes. Primary characters = oblique/patient (F (4,65) =1.322,p=.2713) 3-year-olds: grammatical options (F (4,65) =3.187,p=.0188) 5 and 7/8-year-olds: lexical noun phrases (F (4,65) =.685,p=.6050) 11/12-year-olds and adults: lexical noun phrases Adults : pronominals in significative proportion (F (4,65) =1.700,p=.1607)

41 Discussion Clauses with two participants: increase with age 3 and 5-year-olds: intransitive clauses 7/8 and 11/12-year-olds: intransitive and transitive clauses Adults: transitive clauses

42 Secondary characters = actor/agent Primary characters = oblique/patient Secondary characters = do the action Primary characters = affected by the action Oblique/patient perspective increases with age ! 3-year-olds = appearance of word order which take the oblique/patient in perspective

43 3-year-olds = grammatical forms for the perspective 5 and 7/8-year-olds = lexical noun phrases whatever the perspective 11/12-year-olds and adults = alternation of the 2 linguistics tools for the actor/agent, lexical noun phrases for the oblique/patient

44 Pronominal oblique/patient at the beginning of sentences in 11/12-year-olds and adults = surprising In Hungarian, personal pronouns used with a tonic function Synthesis of parallel actions of the two protagonists, thus contrasted

45 Different linguistic tools depending on the age groups no mastery of the conventional rules of referential coherence until the age of 11/12 years Resort to different strategies : - thematic subject strategy (pronominal forms to refer to the main character irrespective of the function), - nominal strategy (full nominal even for maintaining characters) ) - and anaphoric strategy ( pronominals for maintaining reference but nominals for switching). (Karmiloff-Smith 1981, Wigglesworth 1997).

46 Position of the arguments in perspective link to the strategies mentionned above 3-year-olds = actor/agent or oblique/patient integrated in the verbal form 5 and 7/8-year-olds = actor/agent or oblique/patient in initial position

47 Post-verbal position attested in the 7-8 year olds Actor/agent taken in background Strong topicalization is compensated

48 11/12-year-olds and adults = initial and grammatical positions for the actor/agent and initial position for the oblique/patient

49 Conclusion 3-year-olds = attempt to alternate perspectives but exclusively with verbal forms integrating the affected character 5-year-olds = mastery already unsteady of the use of the different ways to encode the actions 7/8-year-olds = true variation of the canonical word order for pragmatic reasons From 7/8-year-olds = initial position favoured for the argument in perspective or its integration in the verbal form choice depends on the discursive function of the argument.

50 Linguistic means selected to package the information properly encoded to discursive functions difficult to control before 11/12-year-olds. The establishment of the referential coherence not perfectly mastered by the children Use of different strategies (Karmiloff-Smith1981, Wiglesworth, 1997, Fekete 2008) - toddlers = pronominal forms (thematic strategy) - oldest children = nominals (nominal strategy) - adults = coordination of these two strategies (anaphoric strategy)

51 7/8-year-olds = particular concerning the combination of the linguistic means favoured and the position employed for the argument in perspective Post-verbal position for the lexical AC/AG At the same time resort to the nominal strategy, and try to compensate the difficulties of the referential task with the help of the pragmatic functions of word order. Solution for the excessive lexicalization at the beginning of the sentence manipulation of the referents order This is another solution, which they already master, to put the chosen element in background.

52 Capacity of all the children to put the patients of the action in perspective, using different linguistic and pragmatic tools Most difficulties in the application of the conventional rules of narration

53 Berman, R. Slobin, D. I. (Eds.) (1994) Relating Events in Narrative: A Crosslinguistic Developmental Study. Hillsdale, NJ:Erlbaum. Croft, W. (1994) Voice: beyond control and affectedness. In Hopper, P. & Fox, B. Voice: Form and Function. pp Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Fekete, Gabriella (to appear 2008). Referential cohesion in Hungarian: a developmental study. GERNSBACHER, M. A., HARGREAVES, D. (1992) The privilege of primacy: Experimental data and cognitive explanations. In Payne, D. L. Pragmatics of word order flexibility. pp Philadelphia: John Benjamins. Jisa, H., Reilly, J., Verheoven, L., Baruch, E. & Rosado, E. (2002) "Cross- linguistic perspectives on the use of passive constructions in written texts." Journal of Written Language and Literacy, 5, Karmiloff-Smith, A. (1981) The grammatical marking of thematic structure in the development of language production. In Deutsch, W. (Ed.). The childs construction of language. New York: Academic Press, Langacker, R. W. (1998) Conceptualization, Symbolization, and Grammar. In Tomasello, M. The new psychology of language : Cognitive and functional approaches to language structure. pp Mahwah, NJ : Lawrence Erlbaum MacWhinney, B. (1977) Starting points. In Language, 53. pp Mayer, M. (1969) Frog, Where are you? Amsterdam : Dial Press. Strömqvist, S., Verhoeven, L. (Eds.) (2003) Relating events in narrative – typological and contextual perspectives. Mahwah, New Jersey : Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers. Wigglesworth, G. (1997) Childrens individual approaches to the organization of narrative. In Journal of Child Language 24:


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