Michael Sayle Abstracts

  Michael Sayle
   Ph.D. Candidate
   Second Language Acquisition and Teaching GIDP

   American Association of Applied Linguistics Conference
    Orlando, Florida
    April 9-12, 2016

Abstract

“Figurative language processes and Mandarin syntax: the interaction between structure and context/world knowledge”

Certain rare constructions in Mandarin involve interpreting an NP in the object position as a location or instrument instead of as a theme or patient. For example, kai zuoshou (literally “drive left-hand”) has been used to mean “use the left hand to drive” (Lin, 2014). Some explanations for the interpretation/production of non-canonical arguments invoke Davidsonian event structure while other explanations defer to Chinese typology and semantics. However, the latter explanation denies a role to grammatical structure in meaning-making, and the former explanation produces unacceptable utterances. Linguists themselves acknowledge these limitations (e.g., Li 2014) and either reference “semantic extension” (Lin 2014) or the “conventional/institutionalized relationships between the verb and object” (Li, 2014).

The present study argues that (1) metonymic relationships exist between an NP in the object position and its use as a non-canonical argument, (2) that for metonymy to be interpretable, the metonymic relationship must be made salient through context, world knowledge and active frames or denied saliency by lack of access to the same, and (3) that the degree of salience determines the degree of interpretability and the degree of acceptability. The first part of this study argues for a figurative interpretation of the non-canonical arguments. The second and third parts use survey data to show how interpretable and acceptable native Mandarin speakers in China (n≈250) and learners of Mandarin (n≈90) find non-canonical arguments. Data in parts 2 and 3 are analyzed as a mixed ANOVA.

The proposed presentation will provide an overview and highlight the parts that reinforce the role figurative language plays in L2 language use.

Li, Y-H. A. (2014). Thematic hierarchy and derivational economy. Language and Linguistics 15 (3), 295-339.

Lin, T.H. (2014). Light verbs. In Huang, C.T.J., Li, Y.H.A., and Simpson, A. (Eds.), The Handbook of Chinese Linguistics (pp. 73-99). Wiley & Sons.

Summary: (50 words)

L1 and L2 speakers of Mandarin must initially process the verb’s selection of non-canonical arguments through metonymy. This presentation will describe the theoretical underpinnings and explain the survey data that tests the role figurative language plays in processing language use for both L1 and L2 speakers.

Abstract for Lay Audience

Certain rare grammatical constructions in Mandarin involve interpreting a Noun Phrase in the object position as a location or instrument instead of as a traditional theme or patient object. For example, kai zuoshou (literally “drive left-hand”) has been used to mean “use the left hand to drive” (Lin, 2014). Some explanations for the interpretation/production of these non-canonical arguments invoke Davidsonian event structure while other explanations defer to Chinese typology and semantics. However, the latter explanation denies a role to grammatical structure in making meaning, but the former explanation produces unacceptable utterances. Linguists themselves acknowledge these limitations (e.g., Li 2014) and either reference “semantic extension” (Lin 2014) or the “conventional/institutionalized relationships between the verb and object” (Li, 2014). The present study builds on these varied explanations by proposing metonymy as a process that allows a noun phrase in the object position to be interpreted non-canonically. [Simply put, metonymy is a process by which a word or phrase can stand for another word or phrase within the same domain of thought; for example, the word university in “The university is raising tuition” stands for the university administrators.]

The present study argues that (1) metonymic relationships exist between a Noun Phrase in the object position and its use as a non-canonical argument, (2) that for metonymy to be interpretable, the metonymic relationship must be made salient through context, world knowledge and active frames or denied saliency by lack of access to the same, and (3) that the degree of salience determines the degree of interpretability as well as the degree of acceptability. The first part of this study argues for a figurative interpretation of the non-canonical arguments. The second and third parts use survey data to show how interpretable and acceptable native Mandarin speakers in China (n≈250) and learners of Mandarin (n≈90) find non-canonical arguments. Data in parts 2 and 3 are analyzed as a mixed ANOVA.

The proposed presentation will provide an overview and highlight the parts that reinforce the role figurative language plays in L2 language use.

Li, Y-H. A. (2014). Thematic hierarchy and derivational economy. Language and Linguistics 15 (3), 295-339.

Lin, T.H. (2014). Light verbs. In Huang, C.T.J., Li, Y.H.A., and Simpson, A. (Eds.), The Handbook of Chinese Linguistics (pp. 73-99). Wiley & Sons.

Summary: (50 words)

L1 and L2 speakers of Mandarin must initially process the verb’s selection of non-canonical arguments through metonymy. This presentation will describe the theoretical underpinnings and explain the survey data that tests the role figurative language plays in processing language use for both L1 and L2 speakers.

 

Last updated 14 Jun 2016