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Me, myself and I

It's just not that simple.

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Thank you for helping me graduate
general: no idea
So, a gazillion years 4 months ago I asked you guys for your help because I needed people to fill out an online questionnaire on a couple of silly stories. Well, the paper is written, handed in and gotten back with an A on it. So:

Thank you so much to everybody who participated and further advertised it! :D

As for the results... ummm... really, it's very technical, even for linguists (I tried to explain the study to my interviewer in May and she looked at me as if I was an alien) but here it goes:

The basic study is from 1990 and very well-known in the domain of first language acquisition in children. The kids were read stories similar to the (slightly funkied up) ones you guys read, the most well-known one is the one with the boy who told his dad at night that he fell from a tree in the afternoon.
Now, if you ask children "When did the boy say he hurt himself?", this question is ambiguous, there are two possible times that could be asked for: "The boy said at night that he hurt himself." oder "The boy said that he hurt himself in the afternoon."
It was shown that kids have a preference for the time of the saying (i.e. at night) whereas adults have no preference. They explained this finding by pointing to the young brain which is not developed enough to take the time information from the end of the sentence to the beginning of the sentence. (Sorry to everybody who has more thorough knowledge than I do but this is how I understood it. ;)) Both versions are technically correct though.

In German this so called "long distance movement" doesn't work, nor does it in French. There will be two different sentences, depending on what temporal information you're looking for:
Quand est-ce qu’il a dit qu'il s'était fait mal? vs. Qu’est-ce qu’il a dit quand il s’était fait mal?
Wann sagte der Junge, dass er sich verletzte? vs. Was sagte der Junge, wann er sich verletzte?

So, I wanted to see if German and French natives transfer this knowledge from their own mother tongue to English and thus act like monolingual children (so to speak). After all, this "short distance movement" that kids employ is not wrong but one possible interpretaton.

Also, I wanted to see what bilinguals do (who were easy enough to acquire for French and English but hard to get by for English and German). 
Further, I looked at natives of other languages, like Dutch and Greek (hint, hint).

So, you got to read 7 stories:
- 3 were ambiguous (Noam falls from a tree, Cookie Monster wants to help, Kermit wants to kiss Miss Piggy)
- 3 were unambiguous (Sheldon goes to a party, Robin is panicking, David gets injured)
- 1 was grammatically incorrect (Simpsons) -- if you didn't catch that, don't worry... many people, even English natives, didn't and I got all kinds of answers.

As for the results... compared to English natives, German natives used wayyyy more short-distance movement, whereas the Francophones (be they bilinguals or "just" learners of English as a second language) behaved like monolingual English speakers.
Interesting and unexpected finding (I thought that the Francophones would behave like the Germans) but probably due to methodological shortcomings.

So, in a nutshell: A whole lot of very complicated stuff that has close to no relevance to real life but it made me pass the course and, in the end, get a job for next year. ;)

If you care to read the whole paper, here it is: Download pdf-Paper

I'll just repeat here what I said in my acknowledgment part:
I would like to thank all my friends and acquaintances for their participation. A further thank is directed to the administration of the German message board Hochzeits-Forum as well as the Livejournal communities for letting me advertise the study there.


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I think it's normaly, that your interviewer looked at you, if you where an alien, is n't it? ;-))

A whole lot of very complicated stuff that has close to no relevance to real life but it made me pass the course...

And, really, isn't that what higher learning is all about? ;)

(You've heard the one about BS, MS, and PhD by now, right?)

Anyway, glad to help in some small way, and congratulations again on graduating! :)

(Of course, now I've got a teeny little itch in the back of my head, wondering how I "scored." Not really a big deal, but sort of curious.)

A whole lot of very complicated stuff that has close to no relevance to real life but it made me pass the course...

And, really, isn't that what higher learning is all about? ;)

Hahaha, yeah, it really is. Which is why I love it, of course. ;)

As for your "score", I'll look it up when I get a chance. I had to keep all data for random screenings, so I'm sure you're somewhere in there. (After all, I did find you when I did the original data analysis ;))

Congratulations! :D We were happy to help. :)

The study sounds interesting :) I'm downloading the paper to take a skim!

Hugs ♥ ♥ ♥!

I read it :D

I found it interesting that a sentence like "When did the boy say he hurt himself? changes in French and German depending on what is actually being asked. In Greek, such a sentence would be translated pretty much word by word, and with the same ambiguity. I can't think of a way to separate the two sentences by what they ask without giving further clarification.

Heee, thanks a lot! And yay, I'm glad that you understood what I was talking about. ;)

And thanks a bunch for the info on Greek - I'm definitely not done with this topic yet, so I hope to be able to extend my study (or turn it into something actually serious and publish-able) and to include other languages, so it's verrry useful to know it works elsewhere. :D

Lol, now I've forgotten exactly what I read and how I did on that--I think you told me something soon after, too . . . anyway, am curious again, if you feel like digging up the info. Was fun to do! :D

YAY! Congrats for graduating! And, that's an interesting result.

"Qu’est-ce qu’il a dit quand il s’était fait mal?"

er... this doesn't sound french at all to me. As a matter of fact we'd never say that. Either: "Qu'est-ce qu'il a dit quand il s'est fat mal?" OR "qu'est-ce qu'il avait dit quand il s'était fait mal?" <-- it's a conjugation & tense thing. If you choose the present form ("qu'est-ce qu'il à dit..", then second part of the phrase has to be in present tense as well ("quand il s'est..."). In the same vein, if you prefer to set action in the past ("... quand il s'était fait mal"), then first part of the sentence has to follow the past tense rule as well (qu'est-ce qu'il avait dit..?).

brain's really mushy when sleep deprived so... dwnlding paper so I can read it tomorrow morning.

OOh, wait! Dawned on me that you just mistyped. And that second sentence was supposed to be "Est-ce qu'il a dit quand il s'était fait mal?" <-- see? I should really go to bed. ;p

First sentence makes sense, though.

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