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Auteur: Sviatlana KARPAVA

Co-Auteur(s): Kleanthes GROHMANN, University of Cyprus, Cyprus

Acquisition of Aspect by Bilingual Russian-Cypriot Greek Children

Abstract/Résumé: The acquisition of aspect is difficult for native and second language learners due to pragmatic, discourse and subjective factors, and the imperfective paradox, both for children and adults. Perfective aspect presupposes completion, while imperfective can describe a complete or incomplete event, depending on speakers' intentions. According to the Semantic Complexity Hypothesis (van Hout 2008), simple semantic operations are acquired early. Perfective aspect on telic predicates, emphasizing completion, is less complex than imperfective aspect on telic predicates, which requires aspect shift. So, for telic predicates perfective aspect is acquired earlier than imperfective. Konstantzou et al (2011) found that 4-year-old Greek speaking children use perfective aspect for completed situations correctly, while they have problem with the imperfective aspect for incomplete situations; the same goes for 5-year-ols, though the problem decreases. The present study deals with the acquisition of aspect by Russian-Cypriot Greek bilingual children, both in CG and R. 22 children participated in the study, split into four age groups (4, 5, 6 and 7-year-olds). The materials were comprehension and production tasks on aspect (from COST Action 33), adapted to CG and R. The focus lies on the distinction between complete and incomplete situations. The experiment included 6 transitive and telic verbs with regular inflection in the past tense, and while-clauses to establish a specific time frame within which the event could be completed or not. There were six conditions: Com+P (complete situation plus perfective aspect), Com+I (complete situation plus imperfective aspect), Inc+I (incomplete situation+ imperfective aspect), Com-Prod (complete situation) and Inc+Prod (incomplete situation). The first four deal with comprehension and the latter two with production. The results of the study showed that 4-and 5-years-olds, both in Russian and CG, have acquired perfective aspect, yet still have problems with imperfective aspect in incomplete situations; the results improve with age 6. There is a correlation between schooling factor, proficiency, and test production: the higher the language proficiency of the participants and the higher the school grade they attend, the better test production the children performed. It is interesting to note that with more exposure to Greek, living in a CG-environment, test production improves for Greek and decreases for Russian. The results are in line with Konstantzou et al.'s (2011) findings from Greece and also support van Hout's (2008) Semantic Complexity Hypothesis.