Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Body parts and Early-learned Verbs in 5-year-old Telugu speakers A cross-linguistic comparison in association with Telugu, Urdu and Hindi adult speakers


Psychology Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Social and Behavioral Sciences


Traditionally, the perspective has been that the meaning of verbs differs importantly across languages, particularly since Talmys study on verb dynamics in adults (1975), but also in children from diverse linguistic provenance (Slobin, 1996). Recently, however, growing evidence in neuroimaging studies mostly in Indo-European languages, but now in Chinese3, indicates that verb meaning processing engage the activation of regions of the motor system and particularly regions related to bodily effectors, a result also available for 4- to 6-year-old speakers of English (James & Maouene, 2009). Consequently, we wondered whether Telugu speaking children if asked to provide the body parts for common verbs would be systematic and coherent in their judgments. And how they would compare in terms of cross-linguistic similarities and differences with adult Telugu, Hindi and Urdu speakers, as well as with L2 English speakers. The 124 early-learned verbs examined came from 18 transcripts of 18-to 36-month-old Telugu speakers. Subsequently, in a judgment task, 42 five-year-olds from a Hyderabad elementary school, were asked orally and individually: What body part do you use when you. In total, the children provided 21 distinct body part terms. A correspondence analysis (~ a dimension reduction technique for categorical data) on the matrix of 124 verbs by 21 body parts revealed a highly systematic and structured pattern. The first five dimensions accounted for 94.8% of the judgments and correspond to Dimension 1: hand-region-verbs (68 verbs); Dimension 2: mouth-region-verbs (27); Dimension 3: leg-region-verbs (14); Dimension 4: eye-verbs (3); Dimension 5: ear-verbs (2). We then compared the data thus obtained to the adult data available from Duggirala et al., 2011, for 12 adults (in Telugu, Urdu, Hindi) and for 18 adults in English L2. The four correspondence analyses yielded the same 5 dimensions with some differences in how the semantic spaces were organized. We discuss similarities and differences and how they may connect with different cultural perceptions of our sensori-motor systems.

Conference Name

7th Annual International Conference on Languages & Linguistics, 7-10 July 2014, Athens, Greece

Conference Location

7th Annual International Conference on Languages & Linguistics, 7-10 July 2014, Athens, Greece

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