ISSN: 1139-8736
Depósito Legal: B-48039-2000

3.2.2. Developmental issues

Whereas in Spanish, manner is rarely attended to at any age, in English, even the 3 year-olds use a variety of manner verbs. With regards to the path elements, there are some age related developments within the languages. In English, the youngest children, the 3 and 4 year-olds, already use directional particles, such as down, up, in, out, off, on, around, away and over. But initially, they are used mainly with the general purpose motion verbs go and get. With age they are used more frequently with verbs specifying manner of movement. Older children start using them with verbs that encode both manner and cause like tip, buck, bump, or poke. Also, younger children do not normally specify both the source and goal of the trajectories in a single clause. Only the 9 year-olds and the adults do this with any frequency.

In Spanish, where the frog stories in general are less specific with path details and manner of motion, narration of path shows a developmental pattern characterized by the following phases (Sebastián and Slobin 1994: 262-3):

Phase 1. Half of the young children use a simple verb alone or with a prepositional phrase that indicates the source or goal:

(3.50) Se ha subido (age 3)
(3.51) El niño se sube al árbol (age 3)
Phase 2. The other half of the young children sometimes add more detail by the use of the directional locative adverbs arriba, abajo, dentro and encima. They tend to use them redundantly:
(3.52) Sube por arriba por el tronco. (age 4)
(3.53) Entonces abajo ... se cayó. (age 4)
These children feel a need to strenghthen the directional meaning encoded in the path verb of motion. The following table presents the number of locative adverbs used with verbs of motion by age. The table also reflects the number of narrators using them (out of the total 12) and the mean number of adverbs per narrator: (Berman and Slobin 1994: 263)
Adverb 3 yrs 4 yrs 5 yrs 9 yrs Adult
arriba 'upwards 3
abajo 'downwards' 1 2 3
dentro 'inwards' 4 6 1 4
encima 'topwards' 8 4 7 5 2
Total occurrences 13 15 11 5 6
No. of narrators 6 6 5 3 5
Mean adverbs per narrator 1.2 1.8 1.8 1.0 1.0

As can be seen, the pre-schoolers use more types of adverbs and with greater frequency. The fact that 4 and 5 year-olds present a greater mean number of adverbs per narrator (1.8) than 3 year-olds might suggest that they follow a U-shaped developmental curve by which at 3 they are closer to what is the norm in the language (little information about the path), at 4 and 5 they try to provide more information than normal by inserting these adverbs, and by 9 years of age they are back to what is common in the language. Nevertheless, this U-shaped developmental curve should be taken with caution because the numeric differences are small, the sample is not very large, and these numbers might instead reflect different types of individual style, rather than a developmental sequence; or it is also possible that the adverbial overuse might pertain to an earlier phase.

Phase 3. After age 5 some developments take place. First, fewer of those redundant adverbs are observed (as seen in the table above). Secondly, there is an increased specification of source or goal, but almost never specifying both a source and a goal in a single clause. By contrast, and similar to the second clause of example (3.48) above, both source and goal are present simultaneously with just one verb in the narrations of the English-speaking 9 year-olds, as the following examples attest:

(3.54) He pushed him off the side of the cliff into water. (age 9)
(3.55) They fall off the edge into a pond (age 9)
Occasionally, even some 5 year-olds are able to do this:
(3.56) He threw him over a cliff into a pond (age 5)
This agrees with the general finding that overall English-speaking children, just like adults, are more explicit in their path descriptions. The following table makes this evident. It captures, for the five languages in the study, the percentage of uses of a bare verb in the description of the three episodes in the story with downwards motion. It collects, then, mainly data about clauses with the equivalents of fall and throw, caer and tirar in Spanish (Berman and Slobin 1994: 621):
Percentage of Downward Motion Descriptions Using Only a Verb
3yrs 5 yrs 9 yrs 
English  4    27    13 
German  15    2     0 
Spanish  68   37    54 
Hebrew  68    72    45 
Turkish  61    44   33 
The difference between the two types of languages is notorious. Children in the satellite-framed language group use bare verbs very sparingly. Spanish, Hebrew and Turkish speaking children use them quite frequently. The dip in the data of Spanish 5 year-olds might be reflecting the U-shaped developmental curve discussed above. Some of the Spanish 4 and 5 year-olds use more of the directional redundant adverbs, thus presenting fewer bare verbs.
The last developmental change at this phase is towards increased static descriptions of the locational settings, which, as observed above, is the means Spanish narrators use to compensate for the sparsity of their path descriptions. Table III shows this development (Berman and Slobin 1994: 623):

Percentage of Narrators Providing Extended Locative

Elaboration in Describing the Fall from the Cliff
Age Group
5 yrs 9 yrs 
English  8     8 
German  0   17 
Spanish  8   42 
Hebrew  0   42 
Turkish  10   42 
From age 5 to age 9, there is a jump from 8% to 42% in Spanish, whereas in English it remains at 8%. Once again, the satellite-framed and the verb-framed languages form distinct groups. Spanish speaking children must learn to develop these alternative mechanisms that set the scene so that directional verbs of motion can be interpreted more accurately in context.
The following utterances from the Spanish 9 year-old group illustrate the kind of descriptions used to give additional information about the location where the directed motion is going to take place:
(3.57) Lo tiró. Por suerte, abajo, estaba el río. El niño cayó en el agua.
(He) threw him. Luckily, below, was the river. The boy fell in the water
(3.58) El ciervo frena delante de una montañita que da a un río y entonces los dos caen en el río.
The deer brakes in front of a little mountain that faces a river and then the two of them fall in the river

(3.59) Y le tira desde un barranco. Hay un lago, y se cae encima.
And he throws him from a cliff. There’s a lake, and he falls on top

As in the case of (3.49) above, the description of the location of the river allows listeners to infer the details of the falling trajectory. In these detailed depictions of settings, relative clauses play a fundamental role. And, precisely, relative clauses are developed earlier and used more frequently by Spanish-speaking children.
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ISSN: 1139-8736
Depósito Legal: B-48039-2000