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Personal pronouns and perspective taking in toddlers

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 October 1999

MARCELLE RICARD
Affiliation:
Université de Montréal
PASCALE C. GIROUARD
Affiliation:
Université de Montréal
THÉRÈSE GOUIN DÉCARIE
Affiliation:
Université de Montréal

Abstract

This study examined the evolution of visual perspective-taking skills in relation to the comprehension and production of first, second and third person pronouns. Twelve French-speaking and 12 English-speaking children were observed longitudinally from 1;6 until they had acquired all pronouns and succeeded on all tasks. Free-play sessions and three tasks were used to test pronominal competence. Four other tasks assessed Level-1 perspective-taking skills: two of these tasks required the capacity to consider two visual perspectives, and two others tested the capacity to coordinate three such perspectives. The results indicated that children's performance on perspective-taking tasks was correlated with full pronoun acquisition. Moreover, competence at coordinating two visual perspectives preceded the full mastery of first and second person pronouns, and competence at coordinating three perspectives preceded the full mastery of third person pronouns when a strict criterion was adopted. However, with less stringent criteria, the sequence from perspective taking to pronoun acquisition varied either slightly or considerably. These findings are discussed in the light of the ‘specificity hypothesis’ concerning the links between cognition and language, and also in the context of the recent body of research on the child's developing theory of mind.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 1999 Cambridge University Press

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Footnotes

This research was supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to the first and third authors, and by doctoral fellowships from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Fonds pour la Formation de Chercheurs et l'Aide à la Recherche du Québec to the second author. Portions of this research were presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Indianapolis, IN, 1995. We are grateful to the children and parents whose cooperation made the study possible.
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