British Journal of Developmental Psychology

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Volume 20 Issue 1 (March 2002), Pages 1-156

What is ‘on’ and ‘under’ for 15‐, 18‐ and 24‐ month‐olds? Typicality effects in early comprehension of spatial prepositions (pages 113-130)

Which spatial prepositions are the first to be comprehended by 15, 18 and 24‐montholds and how are they understood? To address these questions, early comprehension of prepositions was assessed using parental questionnaires and the preferential looking task. Children were shown stimuli depicting objects or animals either on or under a table in a typical (i.e. on or under the centre of the table) or atypical position (on or under the edge of the table). Existing research and parental assessments led to the prediction that children comprehend the prepositions ‘on’ and ‘under’ very early. It was also predicted that children's looking behaviour would show typicality effects. The results corroborate that ‘on’ and ‘under’ are among those spatial prepositions that are understood early and that children differentiate between typical and atypical ‘on’ and ‘under’ situations in their earliest comprehension of these prepositions. As with object words, at 15 months they associate spatial prepositions initially with typical situations. By 18 months they broaden the scope of the spatial prepositions to include atypical situations.

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