The Development of Spatial Vocabulary

Rosalie Odean, Florida International University


Previous research has shown a link between the spatial words children use and their performance on spatial reasoning tasks. There is a dearth of measures of spatial language, especially those that focus on a specific type of word. This dissertation introduces three studies, using two measures of dimensional adjective comprehension, one in English and one in Spanish. Study one found that bilingual children’s knowledge of dimensional adjectives in one language is not predictive of their performance on dimensional adjectives in the other language, but that general vocabulary within a language predicts performance in that language. This study also showed that within a pair of polar opposite terms (e.g., long and short) children are more likely to know the term describing the big dimension and not the small dimension than vice versa. The second study found that the number of dimensional concepts children comprehend predicts how well they perform on a spatial scaling test, controlling for age and general vocabulary. The final study failed to find a link between dimensional adjective knowledge and performance on the children’s mental transformation task. These findings might have important implications for early education, showing that supporting children’s understanding of language might have an impact on their spatial reasoning.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Odean, Rosalie, "The Development of Spatial Vocabulary" (2018). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI10976849.