What Does Children's Spatial Language Reveal About Spatial Concepts? Evidence From the Use of Containment Expressions

Cognitive Science 38 (5):881-910 (2014)

Children's overextensions of spatial language are often taken to reveal spatial biases. However, it is unclear whether extension patterns should be attributed to children's overly general spatial concepts or to a narrower notion of conceptual similarity allowing metaphor-like extensions. We describe a previously unnoticed extension of spatial expressions and use a novel method to determine its origins. English- and Greek-speaking 4- and 5-year-olds used containment expressions (e.g., English into, Greek mesa) for events where an object moved into another object but extended such expressions to events where the object moved behind or under another object. The pattern emerged in adult speakers of both languages and also in speakers of 10 additional languages. We conclude that learners do not have an overly general concept of Containment. Nevertheless, children (and adults) perceive similarities across Containment and other types of spatial scenes, even when these similarities are obscured by the conventional forms of the language
Keywords Language acquisition  Motion  Language and cognition  Overextension  Space  Spatial language  Cross‐linguistic analyses  Containment
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/cogs.12106
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 44,455
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

How to Build a Baby: II. Conceptual Primitives.Jean M. Mandler - 1992 - Psychological Review 99 (4):587-604.

View all 12 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Events in Space.Amy Rose Deal - 2009 - Proceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory XVIII.


Added to PP index

Total views
13 ( #624,412 of 2,272,567 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #827,718 of 2,272,567 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature