“Physical space first!”: a corpus-based study on the use of localizer ‘Shang’ in early child Mandarin

Dandan Wu, Carrie Lau, Hui Li*

*Corresponding author for this work

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The study investigated the pragmatic use of localizer ‘shang (上)’ by 168 Mandarin-speaking preschoolers (aged 2;6, 3;6, 4;6, 5;6) in the Early Childhood Mandarin Corpus (ECMC) (Li and Tse in Early Childhood Mandarin Corpus, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, 2011). Six types of pragmatic meaning of ‘shang (上)’ were proposed based on literature review, the four about physical space (including the meaning of supporting, attaching, positioning and containing) were produced by 62 children with 118 tokens from the four age groups, whereas the two about psychological space were not found in the corpus. No significant age and gender differences were found in the production of ‘Noun (N) + shang (上)’ expression. The localizers, ‘shang (上, on)’ and ‘li (里, in)’ were often used interchangeably, although they have different meanings in spatial expression. The developmental trends of use of ‘shang (上)’ were discussed with reference to cultural context, cognitive development and language acquisition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-166
Number of pages18
JournalCorpus Pragmatics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • early child Mandarin
  • spatial expression
  • locative terms
  • localizer
  • spatial perception


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