Demonstrative Reference and Cognitive Space: A Memory Game on Mandarin-Speaking Children

Lu Zhao, Lu Zou


The development of pragmatic ability is an essential topic in language acquisition, among which demonstratives are significant to reflect human’s cognition of the relation between language and the environment. The purpose of this research is to investigate the acquisition of spatial demonstratives “zhe” (this) and “na” (that) of Mandarin-speaking children through experimental design (different tool use, e.g. participants pointed at the objects with their finger or a laser pen), exploring the influence of perceptual distance on children’s choice of spatial demonstratives. Through comparison with adults’ data, results supported the view that 5- to 6-year-old children have already developed adult-like cognitive space when it comes to the use of spatial demonstratives, which produced an effect on the use of spatial demonstratives, proving speaker’s subjective involvement in choosing the proximal or distal demonstrative in the process of communication, and rendering more evidence on children’s early development of pragmatic ability.

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