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The acquisition of Vietnamese classifiers

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Item Summary

Title: The acquisition of Vietnamese classifiers
Authors: Tran, Jennie Thuan
Keywords: Vietnamese
Issue Date: Aug 2011
Publisher: [Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [August 2011]
Abstract: This dissertation is the first study on the acquisition of the numeral classifier system in Vietnamese, covering the development of both the syntactic and semantic aspects of classifiers and employing both longitudinal and cross-sectional data. Naturalistic longitudinal data were collected over a period of 6--9 months from four children from monolingual families living in Vietnam, who were ages 1;9, 1;11, 2;4, and 2;5 at the study's start, to determine which classifiers emerged first and to trace the early development of classifier phrases. To investigate later syntactic and semantic development, cross-sectional data were collected from 38 children between the ages 2;10 and 5;7, at a daycare center in Saigon, Vietnam.
The first goal was to increase our knowledge of strategies that children use in the acquisition of their native language. The second aim was to compare the Vietnamese results to data from other Asian languages for which classifier acquisition data exists, primarily Cantonese, Mandarin, and Thai. Two cross-linguistic strategies that this study confirms are: the use of the general classifier as a syntactic placeholder and default classifier, and the overgeneralization of acquired classifiers to nouns that require classifiers that children have not yet acquired. Three cross-linguistic findings consistent with this study include: children perform better with non-numeral than numeral classifier phrases; children only slowly acquire specific shape, function, and arrangement-based classifiers, while mastering the general and the animal classifiers early; and children have early knowledge of a set of core classifiers. Errors made by children cross-linguistically that this study confirms are classifier omission in a numeral noun phrase and the use of double classifiers.
However, the findings for Vietnamese differ from those for other languages in that Vietnamese-speaking children show a lower rate of general classifier use and a higher rate of correct specific classifier use. Unexpected findings include the children's unexpected tendency to omit the classifier with disyllabic nouns, and the very prevalent occurrence of a noun together with a classifier in the youngest children's speech, suggesting that early classifiers and their nouns are often acquired as amalgams.
Description: Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2011.
Includes bibliographical references.
Appears in Collections:Ph.D. - Linguistics

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