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Cognitive Linguistics

Editor-in-Chief: Divjak, Dagmar

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Volume 21, Issue 2


Changes in encoding of path of motion in a first language during acquisition of a second language

Amanda Brown / Marianne Gullberg
Published Online: 2010-06-18 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/COGL.2010.010


Languages vary typologically in their lexicalization of path of motion (Talmy, path to realization: A typology of event conflation: 480–519, 1991). Furthermore, lexicalization patterns are argued to affect syntactic packaging at the level of the clause (e.g., Slobin, Two ways to travel: Verbs of motion in English and Spanish, Oxford University Press, 1996b) and tend to transfer from a first (L1) to a second language (L2) in second language acquisition (e.g., Cadierno and Ruiz, Annual Review of Cognitive Linguistics 4: 183–216, 2006). Crosslinguistic and developmental evidence suggests, then, that typological preferences for path expression are highly robust features of a first language.

The current study examines the robustness of preferences for path encoding by investigating (1) whether Japanese follows patterns identified for other verb-framed languages like Spanish, and (2) whether patterns established in an L1 can change after acquisition of an L2. L1 performance of native speakers of Japanese with intermediate-level knowledge of English was compared to that of monolingual speakers of Japanese and English. Results showed that monolingual Japanese speakers followed basic lexicalization patterns typical of other verb-framed languages, but with different realizations of path packaging within the clause. Moreover, native Japanese speakers with knowledge of English displayed mixed patterns for lexicalization and expressed significantly more path information per clause than either group of monolinguals. Implications for typology and second language acquisition are discussed.

Keywords:: motion events; path; Japanese; English; second language acquisition; crosslinguistic influence; attrition

About the article

Address for correspondence: A. Brown, Syracuse University, Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics, Office 323C, 340 H.B. Crouse Hall, Syracuse, N.Y. 13244-1160, U.S.A. Email:

Address for correspondence: M. Gullberg, Centre for Languages and Literature, PO Box 201, 221 00 Lund, Sweden. Email:

Received: 2009-03-01

Revised: 2009-11-25

Published Online: 2010-06-18

Published in Print: 2010-05-01

Citation Information: Cognitive Linguistics, Volume 21, Issue 2, Pages 263–286, ISSN (Online) 1613-3641, ISSN (Print) 0936-5907, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/COGL.2010.010.

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