The extended development of mapping spatial demonstratives onto space

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Spatial demonstratives (this and that in English) convey distance relative to speaker (within reach vs. out of reach) and object characteristics such as ownership. Previous studies indicate that object characteristics affect adult demonstrative choice, for example, greater use of this for owned objects. Here, production of spatial demonstratives was studied developmentally to identify when demonstrative production is sensitive to both distance and ownership. In two experiments, 7-year-olds, 11-year-olds, and adults completed an object location memory task, and a language task eliciting this or that to indicate an object. Results indicate that adult-like demonstrative production starts around 7 years of age and continues to develop beyond 11 years. Nonlinguistic spatial memory did not vary significantly across age groups. Spatial demonstratives encode both semantic and spatial object characteristics throughout development, revealing the fundamental importance of semantic factors for demonstrative production.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105336
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Early online date11 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • Language development
  • Object knowledge
  • Ownership
  • Spatial demonstratives
  • Spatial memory
  • Spatial representation

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