Language within your reach: Near–far perceptual space and spatial demonstratives

Kenny Coventry, Berenice Valdés, Alejandro Castillo, Pedro Guijarro-Fuentes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Citations (Scopus)


Spatial demonstratives (this/that) play a crucial role when indicating object locations using language. However, the relationship between the use of these proximal and distal linguistic descriptors and the near (peri-personal) versus far (extra-personal) perceptual space distinction is a source of controversy [Kemmerer, D. (1999). “Near” and “far” in language and perception. Cognition 73, 35–63], and has been hitherto under investigated. Two experiments examined the influence of object distance from speaker, tool use (participants pointed at objects with their finger/arm or with a stick), and interaction with objects (whether or not participants placed objects themselves) on spatial demonstrative use (e.g. this/that red triangle) in English (this/that) and Spanish (este/ese/aquel). The results show that the use of demonstratives across two languages is affected by distance from speaker and by both tool use and interaction with objects. These results support the view that spatial demonstrative use corresponds with a basic distinction between near and far perceptual space.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)889-895
Number of pages7
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2008


  • Spatial demonstratives
  • Near and far space

Cite this