Chapter 8. On the importance of goals in child language
Modern psycholinguistic studies started to use experimental and child language observational data concerning the language of space to obtain evidence for the primacy issue: who leads in the articulation of spatial language: language or spatial cognition? Following the model of Landau and Jackendoff, strong claims can be made about the universal distinctions languages make about space and their relationship to the organization of spatial cognition in the brain. However, there are important differences in this regard between languages. Hungarian data will be used to illustrate how a universal cognitive tendency – the primacy of goals – exist very early on in a language that requires distinctions along the path (e.g. in, into, from inside). These tendencies are shown both in normal and in developmentally impaired populations. Our studies on Williams syndrome (in coll. with Á. Lukács) provide some clarifications regarding the language-cognition interface. This condition is characterized by severe limitations of spatial cognition, related to the underdevelopment of posterior parietal areas. In line with these neurocognitive limitations, spatial language in these subjects seems to be very limited as compared to their general level of grammatical morphology. However, detailed comparisons show no differences in the qualitative pattern of performance and errors in using spatial language. It seems that the limitations of computational space limit spatial language in this group, but at the same time the types of computations performed by this limited system are identical. A similar observation also indicates that, in using spatial suffixes to code interpersonal meanings such as to be angry at, spatial use is easier and earlier both in normal subjects and in impaired populations. All of these data support a rather universal and cognition-based view of the unfolding and organization of spatial language.