Academic journal article Studies in Literature and Language

Prototype Account of Tense-Aspect Morphology Acquisition-A Review and Its Prospect

Academic journal article Studies in Literature and Language

Prototype Account of Tense-Aspect Morphology Acquisition-A Review and Its Prospect

Article excerpt

Abstract

Language is one of the greatest human inventions. Linguists have been working on how language works and how people learn language. Theories in second language acquisition and cognitive science have been combined to explain how verbs are acquired. Tense and aspect are two of the most important grammatical systems of verbs for expressing temporal concepts in the world. According to past research, prototypical verbs would be acquired more easily and readily than the less prototypical verbs. This review would cover recent studies on prototype account of tense-aspect morphology acquisition and suggest future research possibilities.

Key words: Second language acquisition; Prototype theory; Morphology

INTRODUCTION

Language is defined as "the human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, and a language is any specific example of such a system", according to Wikipidia. Human language is unique of human behavior. Human language has the basic function of referring to time, which is one of the earliest and most important tasks in language acquisition. People use language to talk about events or situations as being in the past, present, or future, and we talk about events as ongoing or completed (Li & Shirai, 2000). Tense and aspect are two of the most important grammatical systems of verbs for expressing temporal concepts in the world, which learners often encounter difficulties and exhibit varieties in the development of acquisition. Therefore, there has been quite extensive research conducted on verb tense-aspect morphology (Shirai & Andersen, 1995; Shiai, 1998; Haznedar, 2007; Wagner, 2009). The studies on the development of tense-aspect acquisition in L2 have included a wide variety of languages - English, Spanish, Italian, French, Chinese and Japanese (Rafael & Shiai, 2002). In order to interpret sequence of verb morphology in both L1 and L2, there have been some theoretical approaches proposed. Proposals accounting for verb morphology sequence include Bickerton's (1981, 1984) Language Bioprogram Hypothesis, Slobin's (1985) Basic Child Grammar, and Robinson's (1995) Aspect Hypothesis (Li & Shirai, 2000). What this review focuses on is Andersen and Shirai's prototype account - children will create semantic representations of tense-aspect morphology which are restricted to the prototype of morphological categories at the early stage of language acquisition (Shirai 1991, 1994; Shirai & Andersen, 1995). I will have a brief review of concepts of tense-aspect morphology, aspect hypothesis (in Part 1), prototype theory and then focus on how prototype theory is employed to account for tenseaspect morphology acquisition (in Part 2) and then propose some suggestions for further study (in Part 3).

1. TENSE-ASPECT MORPHOLOGY AND ASPECT HYPOTHESIS

Tense and aspect are basic linguistic concepts, consisting temporality encoded implicitly and explicitly on verbs. Tense locates a situation in time with respect to other time (such as speech time). Aspect, which is not concerned with relating a situation with some other time, concerns the different perspectives which a speaker can take and express with regard to the temporal course of some event, action, process, etc. (Klein, 1994, p. 16; cf. Shirai, 1995). Aspect can be further divided into grammatical aspect (or viewpoint aspect) and inherent lexical aspect (or situation aspect) (Smith, 1983; Shirai, 1995). Grammatical aspect is aspectual distinction explicitly marked by linguistic devices, like inflections or auxiliaries. Inherent lexical aspect refers to the inherent characteristics of lexical item, which exhibits semantic features. Vendler's (1967) fourway distinction of verbs and verb phrases with respect to the temporal properties they encode, is most widely and highly accepted and marked the beginning of subsequent research on lexical aspect (Li & Shirai, 2000). The four categories of verbs or verb phrases, are summarized by Shirai (1995) and can be expressed in the following way (Shirai, 1995, 1998):

1 ) Ach ievemen t - that which takes p lace instantaneously, and is reducible to a single point in time (e. …

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