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Spatial Representation of Topological Concepts IN and ON: A Comparative Study of English and Mandarin Chinese

Title:

Spatial Representation of Topological Concepts IN and ON: A Comparative Study of English and Mandarin Chinese

Zhang, Yuan (2013) Spatial Representation of Topological Concepts IN and ON: A Comparative Study of English and Mandarin Chinese. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

This dissertational research is a crosslinguistic study of the semantic and conceptual underpinnings of two topological spatial concepts of containment (expressed in English mainly by preposition in) and support (expressed in English mainly by preposition on) in English and Mandarin Chinese. It consists of three studies, each presented as a stand alone paper in a chapter by itself.

The first study experimentally examines the commonalities and variations between and within groups of English and Mandarin speakers in the categorization of a set of pictures into the containment and support relationship using terms. In addition to crosslinguistic similarities, systematic differences in the use of linguistic expressions by Mandarin and English speakers for these topological spatial relationships were found, as well as systematic individual differences within each language group. Together, these findings point to potential underlying differences in how speakers of English and Mandarin conceptualize these two topological spatial categories.

The second study examines the role of the first language (Mandarin) in the use of the spatial meaning of prepositions in and on by Mandarin speaking users of L2 English. It was found that the L2 users had difficulty using these two prepositions in an English appropriate way and the difficulty was largely attributed to the interference of L1 linguistic and conceptual pattern. Furthermore, L2 proficiency, length of stay in L2 speaking country and exposure to L2 were not related to the use of the two prepositions.

The third study is a descriptive study comparing the range of the semantic meanings of English prepositions in/on and Mandarin postpositions li/shang. Important similarities and differences in the linguistic encoding of containment and support between these two languages were identified. These differences can be accounted for by both semantic and conceptual factors. Most importantly, the study points out to the possibility of a continuum of spatial conceptualization, on which the differences between languages are reflected by the different places that they occupy on that continuum.

All together, the findings in the three studies have important implications for both the research on semantics of spatial terms and on the conceptual structure of spatial relationships.

Divisions:Concordia University > School of Graduate Studies
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Zhang, Yuan
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Special Individualized Program
Date:June 2013
Thesis Supervisor(s):Segalowitz, Norman and Gatbonton, Elizabeth
ID Code:977409
Deposited By: YUAN ZHANG
Deposited On:13 Jan 2014 14:47
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:44
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