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Multilingualism seminar

Language attitudes in Ningbo / The acquisition of caused motion by Uyghur-Chinese bilinguals

23 May 2019, 13:00 – 14:30

Room 336, Raised Faculty Building (MML), Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge CB3 9DA

1. Language attitudes in Ningbo, China

by Hui (Annette) Zhao

With its rapid economic development, China has become more and more multilingual in the 21st century, though research on languages, communities, and identities in contemporary Chinese society is still severely under-developed. In this talk, I investigate young adults’ attitudes to different languages/varieties, and how they co-exist with the state’s language ideology and policies in Ningbo in Eastern China, where the economic impact has brought remarkable social and linguistic changes. The goal is to understand what language standards exist in China and how younger generations (aged 18-25) perceive these ideologies in a fast-changing multilingual society.

I will present data collected from 40 university students based at universities in Ningbo through interviews and questionnaires. The participants are locally-born Ningbonese and their perception of Putonghua, local vernacular dialect (Wu dialect), and English are analysed, focusing on their general attitudes towards each variety.

Qualitative and qualitative analyses will show that these students view the three language varieties differently, and this is tied to the practical value of the varieties. Perhaps surprisingly, variation within and across varieties is met with little resistance or intolerance despite the overall monolingual ideology.


2. The acquisition of caused motion by Uyghur-Chinese early successive bilinguals

by Alimujiang Tusun

The relative role of universal cognitive factors versus language-specific properties is a prominent theme of research in child language development. This study extends the discussion to the context of early successive bilingualism (ESB) by focusing on the acquisition of caused motion expressions by Uyghur-Chinese bilinguals. Our findings reveal a simultaneous but differential impact of the aforementioned two sets of factors. The observed differences in the developmental trajectories of the two languages, especially as evidenced by children’s consistently higher utterance density in Chinese, points to the weightier role of language-specific constraints. However, the increase in utterance density, i.e. children’s ability to focus on and retain more semantic components for expression over time regardless of language indicates the contribution of their developing general cognitive abilities. Bilinguals follow the adult pattern of expressing caused motion in their L1. In their L2 Chinese, they bypass the shared constructions in their two languages up until age 8 and employ the structure unique to their L1, presumably because this option is structurally less complex (mono-clausal) compared to the shared bi-clausal option. As such, cross-linguistic influence seems to be shaped by structural/typological overlap on the one hand and the syntactic complexity of the structures involved on the other.

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Speaker 1: Hui (Annette) Zhao, MEITS postdoctoral research associate, University of Nottingham; Speaker 2: Alimujiang Tusun, MEITS postdoctoral research associate, University of Cambridge

13:00 - 14:30


Room 336, Raised Faculty Building (MML), Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge CB3 9DA 

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