Publication details [#1634]

Gentner, Dedre, Asli Özyürek, Özge Gürcanli and Susan Goldin-Meadow. 2013. Spatial language facilitates spatial cognition: Evidence from children who lack language input. Cognition 127 : 318–330. 13 pp.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
Amsterdam: Elsevier


The paper explores the influence of spatial language to the way people think about space; it observes deaf children who do not know a conventional language (they use gestures called homesigns), and tests their performance on nonlinguistic spatial tasks. The tested hypothesis was that deaf children would easily access the relational system of linguistic encoding if they were routinely exposed to spatial language. Two key findings were revealed: a) deaf children with no exposure to a conventional language model could not produce any homesign gestures conveying spatial relations between two objects and, b) there are cognitive benefits (i.e., mapping, memory, spatial locations) in learning a language that has linguistic devices for encoding spatial relations. The results corroborate the thesis that language provides the means for thinking about space.