Journal of East Asian Linguistics

, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 333–359 | Cite as

Children’s knowledge of double negative structures in Mandarin Chinese

Article

Abstract

This study investigated children’s knowledge of double negation in Mandarin Chinese. Double negation is a phenomenon where two negatives cancel each other out, thereby yielding a positive meaning. Previous research found that children did not have knowledge of double negation until the age of seven or later. We argue that the observed difficulty of children in previous research is due to an artifact of the experimental task where the target structure was presented without the support of an appropriate context. To see whether preschool children have knowledge of double negation, we used experimental tasks which presented the structure in a plausible context. The results show that 5-year-olds already know that two negatives cancel each other out. By age 6 children are even able to produce double negation in an adult-like manner. This is evidence that double negation does not pose significant difficulty for young children if a plausible context is provided.

Keywords

Double negation Logic Plausible contexts Child language Mandarin Chinese 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Baayen, Harald, Doug Davidson, and Douglas Bates. 2008. Mixed-effects modelling with crossed random effects for subjects and items. Journal of Memory and Language 59: 390–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Carpenter, Patricia A., Marcel Adam Just, Timothy A. Keller, William F. Eddy, and Keith R. Thulborn. 1999. Time course of fMRI-activation in language and spatial networks during sentence comprehension. NeuroImage 10: 216–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cheng, Lisa L.-S., and Yafei Li. 1991. Double negation in Chinese and multi projections. Paper presented at the North America Conference on Chinese Linguistics, Cornell University.Google Scholar
  4. Crain, Stephen, and Rosalind Thornton. 1998. Investigations in Universal Grammar: A guide to experiments on the acquisition of syntax and semantics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  5. de Villiers, Jill G., and Helen Tager Flusberg. 1975. Some facts one simply cannot deny. Journal of Child Language 2: 279–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ding, Shengshu. 1961. Xiandai hanyu yufa jianghua (Discussion on modern Chinese grammar). Beijing: Shangwu Yinshuguan (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  7. Fan, Li. 2007. The early acquisition of negative words in Mandarin Chinese. Modern Foreign Languages 30: 144–154 (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  8. Givón, Talmy. 1978. Negation in language: Pragmatics, function, ontology. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  9. Givón, Talmy. 1993. English grammar: A function-based introduction, vol. I. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Glenberg, Arthur M., David A. Robertson, Jennifer L. Jansen, and Mina C. Johnson-Glenberg. 1999. Not propositions. Cognitive Systems Research 1: 19–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gualmini, Andrea. 2004. Some knowledge children don’t lack. Linguistics 42: 957–982.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hintikka, Jaakko. 2002. Negation in logic and natural language. Linguistics and Philosophy 25: 585–600.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Horn, Laurence R. 1989. A natural history of negation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  14. Hyams, Nina, and Kenneth Wexler. 1993. On the grammatical basis of null subjects in child language. Linguistic Inquiry 24: 421–460.Google Scholar
  15. Jou, Jerwen. 1988. The development of comprehension of double negation in Chinese children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 45: 457–471.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Jouie, Mak W.-F. 1995. Children’s comprehension of double negation. B.A. Dissertation, University of Hong Kong.Google Scholar
  17. Kaup, Barbara, Jana Lüdtke, and Rolf A. Zwaan. 2006. Processing negated sentences with contradictory predicates: Is that door that is not open mentally closed? Journal of Pragmatics 38: 1033–1050.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kaup, Barbara, Richard H. Yaxley, Carol J. Madden, Rolf A. Zwaan, and Jana Lüdtke. 2007. Experiential simulations of negated text information. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 60: 976–990.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lee, Thomas H.-T., and Li Fan. 2009. Negation and its scope in early child Mandarin: Some longitudinal findings. Paper presented at the Beijing Language and Culture University.Google Scholar
  20. Lü, Shuxiang. 1985. Yiwen, fouding, kending (Question, negation and affirmation). Zhongguo Yuwen 4: 241–250 (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  21. Lüdtke, Jana, and Barbara Kaup. 2006. Context effects when reading negative and affirmative sentences. In Proceedings of the 28th annual conference of the cognitive science society, ed. R. Sun, 1735–1740. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  22. Pea, Roy D. 1980. Logic in early child language. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 345: 27–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. R Development Core Team. 2012. The R project for statistical computing. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing. http://www.R-project.org.
  24. Sherman, Mark A. 1976. Adjectival negation and the comprehension of multiply negated sentences. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 15: 143–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Staab, Jenny. 2007. Negation in context: Electrophysiological and behavioral investigations of negation effects in discourse processing. San Diego: University of California.Google Scholar
  26. Thornton, Rosalind, and Graciela Tesan. 2007. Categorical acquisition: Parameter setting in Universal Grammar. Biolinguistics 1: 49–98.Google Scholar
  27. Wason, Peter C. 1959. The processing of positive and negative information. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 11: 92–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Wason, Peter C. 1965. The contexts of plausible denial. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 4: 7–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Wason, Peter C. 1971. In real life negatives are false. Communication & Cognition 4: 239–253.Google Scholar
  30. Zeijlstra, Hedzer H. 2004. Sentential negation and negative concord. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  31. Zhang, Yunqiu, Zhongling Wang, and Yonghua Xiao. 2006. A cognitive analysis of negative structures and their usage errors in children before four years of age. Journal of Capital Normal University 173: 70–77 (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  32. Zhou, Guoguang. 2002. An investigation of children’s use of the negative marker bu and related negative structures. Applied Linguistics 174: 42–49 (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  33. Zhu, Manshu. 1986. Research on child language development. Shanghai: East China Normal University (in Chinese).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Cognitive Science, ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its DisordersMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations