Whose side are they on? Children's interpretation of perspective-dependent prepositions

Vera Hukker, Petra Hendriks

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    Spatial prepositions express relations between objects in space. A subset of spatial prepositions is ambiguous due to the different perspectives from which these spatial relations can be considered. The ability to consider another person’s perspective is still developing in children. This study investigates how Dutch-speaking children (mean age 10;1) and adults interpret perspective-dependent spatial prepositions uttered by a speaker. We found that adults took the speaker’s perspective in a third of the cases, whereas children did so in a sixth of the cases. No differences in interpretation emerged between prepositions in assertions and requests, although these different speech acts reflect different speaker intentions. In general, children performed like adults, but less often took the speaker’s perspective with naast compared to voor and achter in assertions. We conclude that 10-year-olds can take another person’s perspective when interpreting spatial prepositions, but, like adults, only do so in a minority of cases.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)63-76
    Number of pages14
    JournalLinguistics in the Netherlands
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Dec-2017


    • Language development, perspective-taking, egocentric perspective, other-centric perspective, reference frame, spatial prepositions

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