Spatial deixis in child development

Gonzalez Pena, Patricia (2020) Spatial deixis in child development. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This thesis is concerned with deictic communication in development, particularly with the use and understanding of demonstrative words: here, there, this and that. These deictic words have the role of orienting another person’s attention to an object on space. The overall goal of this work is to explore the ways in which the study of demonstratives can be used to understand the development of joint attention, communication, spatial organisation, and the understanding of perspectives. Chapter 1 is an introduction to deictic communication. It presents a literature review of adults’ mapping of demonstratives onto space, and of children’s acquisition of demonstratives. Then, chapters 2 to 4 are three studies that focus on different stages of development: 18 to 24 months in Chapter 2, 3 to 5 years old in chapter 3, and 7 to 11 in Chapter 4. The study in Chapter 2 focuses on infants’ acquisition of demonstratives. Open-source corpus linguistics and parental report data were used to describe infants’ use of demonstratives in English and Spanish. Unlike previously thought, demonstratives emerged typically after the 50th word and in two-word utterances. Chapter 3 presents a study on children’s understanding of demonstratives’ distance contrast. Results indicate this is achieved by age 4, but no relation with theory of mind, visual perspective taking or spatial skills was found. The study in Chapter 4 focused on unconstrained demonstrative production and conceptualisation of space. Results show that demonstrative choice was immature at 7 years and still developing at 11 years. Children were sensitive to object characteristics (ownership), indicating that demonstrative use reflects conceptual instead of physical proximity distinctions from early on. Finally, Chapter 5 is a general discussion of the findings and future directions. In sum, the acquisition of demonstratives is a protracted process that emerges in infancy and extends beyond the school years.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 02 Dec 2020 10:50
Last Modified: 02 Dec 2020 10:50

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