Language and cognition in development: Old questions, new directions

Maya Hickmann

Abstract

The relation between language and cognition in child development is one of the oldest and most debated questions, which has recently come back to the forefront of several disciplines in the social sciences. The overview below examines several universalistic vs. relativistic approaches to this question, stemming both from traditional developmental theories and from more recent proposals in psycholinguistics that are illustrated by some findings concerning space in child language. Two main questions are raised for future research. First, substantial evidence is necessary concerning the potential impact of linguistic variation on cognitive development, including evidence that can provide ways of articulating precocious capacities in the pre-linguistic period and subsequent developments across a variety of child languages. Second, relating language and cognition also requires that we take into account both structural and functional determinants of child language within a model that can explain development at different levels of linguistic organization in the face of cross-linguistic diversity.

Keywords:
Quick links
A browser-friendly version of this article is not yet available. View PDF
Berman, R.A., & D.I. Slobin
(1994) Different ways of relating events in narrative: A crosslinguistic developmental study. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
Bloom, P
(1996) Recent controversies in the study of language acquisition. In Morton Ann Gernsbacher (ed.), Handbook of Psycholinguistics. San Diego, Calif.: Academic Press, pp. 741-779.Google Scholar
Bowerman, M
(1989) Learning a semantic system: What role do cognitive pre-dispositions play?. In M.L. Rice, & R.L. Schiefelbusch (eds.), The teachability of language. Baltimore: Paul H. Brooks, pp. 133-69.Google Scholar
(1996) The origins of children's spatial semantic categories: Cognitive vs. linguistic determinants. In J.J. Gumperz, & S.C. Levinson (eds.), Rethinking linguistic relativity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 145-176.Google Scholar
Bowerman, M., S. Choi
& (2001) Shaping meanings for language: Universal and language-specific in the acquisition of spatial semantic categories. In M. Bowerman, & S.C. Levinson (eds.), Language acquisition and conceptual development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 475-511. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
Brown, R
(1994) The Ins and Ons of Tzeltal locative expressions: The semantics of static descriptions of location. Linguistics 32: 743-790. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Choi, S., & M. Bowerman
(1991) Learning to express motion events in English and Korean: The influence of language-specific lexicalization patterns. Cognition 41: 83-121. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Chomsky, N
(1981) Lectures on government and binding. Dordrecht: Foris.Google Scholar
Clark, H.H
(1973) Space, time, semantics and the child. In T.E. Moore (ed.), Cognitive development and the acquisition of language. New york: Academic Press.Google Scholar
Ehrich, V
(1982) Discourse organization and sentence form in child language: How children describe rooms. Papers and reports on child language development 21: 55-62.Google Scholar
Eisenberg, A.R., E.T. Kako, M. Highter, & N. McGraw
(1998) Speaking of motion: Verb use in English and Spanish. Language and Cognitive Processes 13.5: 521-549. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
Fodor, F.J
(1983) The modularity of mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Gumperz, J.J., & S.C. Levinson
(eds.) (1996) Rethinking linguistic relativity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Hirsh-Pasek, K., & R.M. Golinkoff
(1996) The origins of grammar: Evidence from early language comprehension. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Hendriks, H
(1993) Motion and location in narrative discourse: A crosslinguistic and developmental perspective. Doctoral dissertation, University of Leiden.
Hickmann, M
(1995) Discourse organization and the development of reference to person, space, and time. In P. Fletcher, & B. McWhinney (eds.), Handbook of child language. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, pp. 194-218.Google Scholar
(1998a) On null subjects and other pronouns: Syntactic and pragmatic approaches. In N. Dittmar, & Z. Penner (eds.), Issues in the theory of language acquisition. Bern: Peter Lang, pp. 143-175.Google Scholar
(1998b) Person, space, and information status in children's narratives: A crosslinguistic analysis. Studi Italiani di Linguistica Teorica e Applicata XXVII.1: 49-66.Google Scholar
forthcoming) Person, time, and space in children's narratives: A crosslinguistic functional perspective to language acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hickmann, M., H. Hendriks, & F. Roland
(1998) Référence spatiale dans les récits d'enfants. Langue Française 118: 104-126. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Johnston, J.R., & D.I. Slobin
(1979) The development of locative expressions in English, Italian, Serbo-Croatian and Turkish. Journal of Child Language 6: 529-45. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Karmiloff-Smith, A
(1987) Function and process in comparing language and cognition. In M. Hickmann (ed.), Social and functional approaches to language and thought. Orlando, FL: Academic Press, pp. 185-202.  BoPGoogle Scholar
(1992) Beyond modularity. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
Landau, B., & D.S. Jackendoff
(1990) Objects and places : Geometric and syntactic representations in early lexical learning. Cognitive Development 5: 287-312. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Lécuyer, R., A. Streri, & M-G. PLcheux
(1996) Le développement cognitif du nourrisson. Paris: Nathan.Google Scholar
Levinson, S.C
(1994) Vision, shape, and linguistic description: Tzeltal body-part terminology and object description. Linguistics 32: 791-855. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
(1996) Relativity in spatial conception and desciption. In J.J. Gumperz & S.C. Levinson (eds.), Rethinking linguistic relativity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 177-202.Google Scholar
(1997) From outer to inner space: Linguistic categories and non-linguistic thinking. In J. Nuyts, & E. Pederson (eds.), Language and conceptualization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 13-45. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Lloyd, P
(1991) Strategies in children’s route directions. Journal of Child Language 18: 171-189. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Lucy, J., & J. Werstch
(1987) Vygotsky and Whorf: A comparative analysis. In M. Hickmann (ed.), Social and functional approaches to language and thought. Orlando, FL: Academic Press, pp. 67-86.Google Scholar
MacWhinney, B., & E. Bates
(eds.) (1989) The cross-linguistic study of sentence processing. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Piaget, J
(1923) Le langage et la pensée chez l’enfant. Neuchâtel: Delachaux & Niestlé.Google Scholar
Piaget, J., & B. Inhelder
(1947) La représentation de l'espace chez l'enfant. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.Google Scholar
Slobin, D.I
(1985) Cross-linguistic evidence for the language-making capacity. In D.I. Slobin (ed.), The crosslinguistic study of language acquisition. Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum, pp. 1157-1257.Google Scholar
(1991) Learning to think for speaking: Native language, cognition and rhetorical style. Pragmatics 1: 7-25. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
(1996) Thinking for speaking. In J.J. Gumperz, & S.C. Levinson (eds.), Rethinking linguistic relativity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 70-96.Google Scholar
Talmy, L
(2000) Towards a cognitive semantics. Harvard, MIT Press.Google Scholar
Van Geert, P
(1985) In, on, under: An essay on the modularity of infant spatial competence. First Language 6.16: 7-28. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Vygotsky, L.S
(1962) Thought and language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Wertsch, J
(1981) The concept of activity in Soviet Psychology. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe.Google Scholar
(1985) Vygotsky and the social formation of mind. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Weissenborn, J
(1986) Learning how to become an interlocutor: The verbal negotiation of common frames of reference and actions in dyads of 7-14 year-old children. In J. Cook-Gumperz, W. Corsaro & J. Streek (eds.), Children's world and children's language. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Whorf, B.L
(1956) Language, thought and reality: Selected writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar