Conceptualisation of spatial locations/ Comparative study on Slavic spatial prepositions

The study of spatial language provides insights into the way(s) in which the human mind deals with the surrounding world and so also into the functioning of human cognition. The existing literature and theories on spatial language are generally based on a very limited number of familiar Western European languages (notably German, French, and English) and some American Indian languages. Slavic languages are not taken into account. However, Slavic languages are quite specific among the languages of Europe because of the interaction between the verb with its aspect and prefix on the one hand, and prepositions and the choice of case on the other hand. One of the most specific features of Slavic languages, as I have shown in my previous studies, is the capability of Slavic speakers (Russian, Polish) to focus his attention, within one and the same contact situation, either on the boundaries of a location, or on the area of contact between a located object and a location. However , concrete usages per languages show certain restrictions: not all locations (even of the same nature) can always be interpreted in this fashion. In Russian, for example, there is a big difference between literary language and the vernacular, etc. Another specific aspect of spatial relationships in Slavic languages is mapping a motion event onto a locative static situation. The orientation of the (moving) located object and its placement with respect to the location as a point of reference differ for the various Slavic languages. Russian, for example, highlights only the back or the bottom of the location/goal (behind and under) and misses the whole series of the compound ablative prepositions. Other Slavic languages have more/other possibilities which are not yet investigated.

School Children Bilingualism

As the population of bilinguals (with Russian as one of their mother tongues) in Western Europe and North America grows, the study of Russian language acquisition by such children has become increasingly important. Specific studies examining such bilingual infants and school children are, however, lacking. My concern is the way in which the Russian nominal case system is acquired by bilingual children at age between 5 en 10. It has become obvious from my preliminary observations, that the nominal case system of Russian is one of the biggest stumbling-blocks for bilingual children. It is acquired with great difficulties. The first signs of (partial) acquisition usually occurs at age 4 or even 5, by which time monolingual children have mastered it perfectly. In my research at the Amsterdam Russian School, the following issues will be tackled:

  • the order in which the elements of the case system is acquired; the reasons for this and the possible explanation of outcomes.
  • the order of the parts of speech (nouns, adjectives, pronouns, numerals, etc.) in which the acquired case structures would be employed;
  • the matching of case acquisition and age, if possible;
  • the link between the linguistic situation at home and the level of language proficiency of the nominal case system in particular.

  •    On bilingualism


    2001a. ‘Зри в корень ofwel Terug naar de Roots (1)'. Levende Talen magazine, 2, 27.

    2001b. ‘Зри в корень ofwel Terug naar de Roots (2)'. Levende Talen magazine, 3, 36-37.

    2001c. ‘Проблемы обратной концептуализации локальных объектов в русском литературном языке и его диалектах’. Русский язык: исторические судьбы и современность. Труды и материалы. Москва. 111-112.

    2003a. ‘Разговоры на кухне … о кухне’. Die het kleine eert, is het grote weerd. Festschrift voor Adrie Barentsen. [Pegasus Oost-Europese Studies 1]. Amsterdam. 267-282.

    2003b. ‘Проблемы расхождений в пространственной концептуализации физических локальных объектов в современном русском литературном языке и некоторых русских диалектах’. Dutch Contributions to the Thirteenth International Congress of Slavists (SSGL 30). Amsterdam – New York. 289-330.

    2003c. ‘Категория времени и наивная картина мира (на материале русского и голландского языков). Time flies. Festschrift for William Veder. [Pegasus Oost-Europese Studies 1]. Amsterdam. 267-292.

    2003d. ‘Большой русско-голландский словарь – новый этап в создании двуязычных словарей’. Русский текст и русский дискурс сегодня. Proceedings of the Tenth Congress of MAPRYAL. С-Петербург. 626-633.

    2007. ‘Вариативность в выборе предлогов в и на при локальных объектах в памятниках деловой и бытовой письменности XIVXVII вв.’. Русский язык: исторические судьбы и современность. Труды и материалы. Москва. 289-290.

    2008. ‘Проблемы освоения русского языка как второго родного детьми 5-7 лет и создание адекватного учебного пособия. Literature and Beyond. Festschrift for Willem G. Weststeijn. [Pegasus Oost-Europese Studies 11/2]. Amsterdam. 609-627.