Cross-linguistic differences in talking about scenes
Speakers of English and Tamil differ widely in which relational roles they overtly express with a verb. This study provides new information about how speakers of these languages differ in their descriptions of the same scenes and how explicit mention of roles and other scene elements vary with the properties of the scenes themselves. Specifically, we find that English speakers, who in normal speech rely more on explicit mention of verb arguments, in fact appear to be more affected by the pragmatic manipulations used in this study than Tamil speakers. Additionally, although the mention of scene items increases with development in both languages, Tamil-speaking children mention fewer items than do English-speaking children, showing that the children know the structure of the language to which they are exposed.