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Spatial cognition and the acquisition of the spatial locative

Vlassopulos, M. (1992). Spatial cognition and the acquisition of the spatial locative. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


This study investigated various aspects of spatial cognition with reference to the acquisition of spatial locative prepositions by young children. Two perspectives were considered in these experiments, represented by different groups of experimental subjects. Firstly, it was considered whether language-specific factors played a role in the development of spatial cognition and in the acquisition rate of specific locatives. The second aspect was concerned with whether certain linguistic or cognitive skills were necessary prerequisites for the development of spatial cognition. Thus, the experimental subjects consisted of either normal English- or Greek-speaking subjects, aged between 2;6 and 5;0 years for the cross-linguistic aspect, or mentally handicapped or language handicapped children for the cognitive aspect of the investigation. Both of the latter groups were Greek-speaking.

The seven experiments in the series tested the comprehension of five locative prepositions: in, on, under, over and through. Two basic methods were used to test the comprehension of these locatives: one was through showing or categorizing pictures of either abstract or concrete objects in these spatial configurations, and the other involved the subjects' manipulation of toy objects. In this way, different hypotheses were tested concerning the relationship between spatial locative acquisition and spatial cognition.

The results of the experiments pointed to several variables upon which the development of spatial cognition is dependent. There appears to be a surprisingly close link between the perceptual- conceptual aspect and the linguistic, possibly in part explained by an underlying "common code”, which is neither verbal, nor visual. As far as the linguistic aspects are concerned, it appears that pragmatic factors are those which primarily define the learning of spatial locatives. Thus, knowledge of congruent spatial situations seems to be a determining factor in the comprehension of locative terms. Finally, it was seen that language-specific factors may actually influence the perceptual-conceptual aspect of a task, even though they may not influence the overall rate of locative acquisition.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses
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