The Effects of Contextual Cues on the Learning of Prepositions

AbstractLanguage has the power to shape the way people organize their thoughts and concepts. Some concepts, like spatial words, are categorized differently cross-linguistically. Conflicting language-to-concept mappings, such as the Spanish “en” translating to both “in” and “on”, may pose difficulty to Spanish speakers learning English. This study investigated how contextual cues can help children learn prepositions. Three-year-olds were read preposition books that were arranged in one of two conditions: separation or control. The separation condition had each instance of “in” appear in one visual context (e.g., “Bear put the apple in the box”, blue page) and each instance of “on” appear in a separate context (e.g., “Penguin put the ball on the grass”, green page). The control condition eliminated the contextual cues by presenting instances of “in” and “on” in both contexts. This study informs our understanding of strategies to improve the learning of spatial words in everyday adult-child interactions.

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