The University of Arizona

ACQUISITION OF L2 SPATIAL PREPOSITIONS: NEW WORDS FOR OLD CONCEPTS?

Matthew Finkbeiner

Abstract


Following Jackendoff's Representational Modularity (1996, 1997), if we take conceptual structure (CS) and spatial representation (SR) to be what constitute the 'concept' of a word,  then we can take phonological structure (PS) and syntactic structure (SS) to  be what  are "tacked onto this knowledge to make it linguistically expressible" (Jackendoff, 1996, p. 12). According to Representational Modularity, the lexicon is a learned mapping between levels of representation (such as CS or SS) within the language faculty. For those of us interested in second language acquisition (SLA), this notion, at least in terms of spatial prepositions. provides a very specific means of investigating what learners acquire and transfer  when learning L2 spatial prepositions. The ways that SRs and CSs combine to form relational schemata for particular spatial prepositions vary from language to language. This paper argues that learning a new L2 spatial preposition means learning how to combine particular SRs with particular CSs in ways that perhaps. have never been done before in the  Ll.

This paper provides a fine-grained analysis of CS-SR mappings for the English polysemic spatial preposition over and its Chinese counterparts. Distinctions between several CS-SR mappings for the various relational schemata of English and Chinese OVER1 are identified. Based on these distinctions, a hypothesis is made, addressing what, exactly, Chinese learners of L2 English both transfer and acquire when learning the various shades of meaning for over.

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