February 17, 2009
Montclair State Universtiy
Sources and Goals: Representations in normally developing infants, children, and adults and children who have Williams syndrome
Human beings talk about events. The capacity to do so requires an interface between spatial cognition and language. However, given that the format of linguistic and non-linguistic representations is likely to differ, the question arises of how these two systems map onto each other and how these mappings are learned. I will present research exploring one possible solution to this problem: a homology exists between the non-linguistic and linguistic representations of Sources (starting points) and Goals (end points). First, when linguistically describing events, normally developing children and adults, and children with the genetic disorder Williams syndrome, are more likely to encode the Goal path rather than the Source path. A Goal bias is also found when individuals represent events non-linguistically, and even extends to the event representations of pre-linguistic infants. Thus, an asymmetry between Goal and Source paths is common to both linguistic and non-linguistic structure and is found early in development. In the second part of my talk, I will present research exploring the strength of this homology. Does a Goal bias in non-linguistic cognition extend to a variety of events or is specific to events involving intentional, goal-directed action? Research with infants, children, and adults suggest the latter - a Goal bias in non-linguistic cognition is specific to intentional events. These findings raise the important question of how children learn to collapse over conceptual domains for purposes of expressing Paths in language.