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Department of Cognitive Science

Cognitive Science Alumni

Francesco-Alessio Ursini

Francesco-Alessio Ursini

Thesis Details

The acquisition of directional PPs in Italian and English.

In a nutshell, my thesis aims at providing an answer to the following question (Bierwisch (1996)): "How much language gets into space?" My M.Phil. thesis (Ursini (2006)) investigated the semantics of directional Prepositiona Phrases (PPs) such as e.g. "to, towards, into" in the framework of Vector Space Semantics (VSS, Zwarts and Winter (2000)). In a nutshell, I proposed that PPs like "towards, along" express the equivalent of plural and mass forms in the domain of PPs. Therefore, all the considerations valid for e.g. the nominal domain can be extended to PPs as well. My current project aims to: 1. Understand how much of the module of Spatial Representation (Jackendoff (1990.1996)) is mapped onto the linguistic component (and the semantic input), and what are the differences that occur when these two modules interface. 2. Give an exhaustive account of the possible "directional meanings", i.e. capture the meaning (semantic input) behind directionals and how these meanings are related one another in a ordered (i.e. lattice-like, Link (1998)) domain; 3. Analyze how the possible meanings in the "directional domain" are then mapped onto the syntactic output, understanding why languages show cross-linguistic variation (see e.g. Svenonius (2006b)); 4. How the issues covered in points 1-3 are solved in the acquisition of directional PPs by Italian and English-speaking children (e.g. Stringer(2006)). Assuming a UG framework as outlined in e.g. Chomsky (1995), Crain&Pietroski (2001), the cross-linguistic variation amounts to a different mapping of meanings onto forms, possibly defined in the lexicon. The acquisition of PPs (the "glue" between the verbal and the nominal domain) would thus follow the same principles found for other constituents, and provide a further proof of the validity of the UG hypothesis, also shedding some light on how language interfaces with other modules of cognition.

  • Type: PhD
  • Scholarship : iMurs
  • Supervisors : Prof. Stephen Crain, Prof. Max Coltheart

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