Encoding motion events in Cantonese and English: A case study of a bilingual child

Cheung Shing Sam LEUNG, Yuen Fan Lornita WONG

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


This paper presents findings from the study of a bilingual child’s development in narratives. It specially examines the encoding of motion events in Cantonese and English. Two major questions in encoding motion events have attracted much discussion in the literature: (a) How does a child encode a motion event? (Developmental issue); and (b) How much of this is affected by the specific properties of the native language? (Typological effect on acquisition). Despite a large number of studies on how children encode motion events in English, Spanish, German and other western languages providing evidence on the relationship between language typology and language development, research on Chinese, and Cantonese-English bilingual children’s expression of motion events is relatively scarce. , In this study, we reported a case study of a bilingual child SC (aged 5) in Britain. The child was born in London and raised in a Cantonese-dominant home, but has been exposed to English spoken around her in the nursery since age 3. To elicit data in both Cantonese and English from the child, we used the Frog Story methodology as exemplified by Berman and Slobin (1994) and Stromqvist and Verhoeven (2004). Our analysis focused on her use of manner and path verbs in encoding motion events in both English and Cantonese, and compared her usage with children speaking Cantonese and English as L1. Results show that her use of motion event expressions (manner and path verbs) in English is similar to that of English children whereas her way of marking motion events in Cantonese is rather limited. These findings will be discussed in terms of the dominance language of the child and her exposure to both Cantonese and English. Copyright © 2013 ISB9 Organizing Committee.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


Leung, C.-s. S., & Wong, Y.-f. L. (2013, June). Encoding motion events in Cantonese and English: A case study of a bilingual child. Paper presented at the 9th International Symposium on Bilingualism (ISB9), Singapore.


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