Purpose

The aims of the present research were to determine (a) the age at which children with typical development understand the concept of opposite, (b) whether this is related to other cognitive abilities or experiences, and (c) whether there is early implicit understanding of the concept.

Method

Children (N = 204) between 3 and 5 years of age were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 experimental conditions in a novel opposite task. Children's language and working memory skills were assessed, and parents provided information about children's access to learning materials about opposites.

Results

In the opposite task, 4- and 5-year-olds, but not 3-year-olds, demonstrated acquisition of the concept of opposite. Children demonstrated this understanding only when asked for the “opposite” one, suggesting that antonymy was not made salient by stimulus properties alone. Children's accuracy was not significantly related to their language or working memory skills, to their child care experience, or to whether parents reported having books or games about opposites or playing opposite word games with children. Eye gaze analyses provided no evidence for early implicit understanding of the concept of opposite.

Conclusion

Children with typical development have a concept of opposite by 4 years of age.

Supplemental Material

https://doi.org/10.23641/asha.6170333

References

  • American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. (2008). Facts for families. Washington, DC: Author.
  • Baldwin, D. A. (1992). Clarifying the role of shape in children's taxonomic assumption.Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 54, 392–416. doi:10.1016/0022-0965(92)90027-4
  • Bishop, D. V. M. (2006). Children's Communication Checklist–2. San Antonio, TX: Pearson Education.
  • Bonthoux, F., & Kalenine, S. (2007). Preschoolers' superordinate taxonomic categorization as a function of individual processing of visual vs. contextual/functional information and object domain.Cognition, Brain & Behavior, 11(4), 1–20. doi:10.3758/PBR.15.3.66
  • Bracken, B. A. (1988). Rate and sequence of positive and negative poles in basic concept acquisition.Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 19, 410–417.
  • Case, R., Kurland, D. M., & Goldberg, J. (1982). Operational efficiency and the growth of short-term memory span.Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 33, 386–404.
  • Chen, D., Lu, H., & Holyoak, K. J. (2010). Learning and generalization of abstract semantic relations: Preliminary investigation of Bayesian approaches.In S. Ohlsson & R. Catrambone (Eds.), Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 871–876). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
  • Cicchetti, D. V. (1994). Guidelines, criteria, and rules of thumb for evaluating normed and standardized assessment instruments in psychology.Psychological Assessment, 6, 284–290. doi:10.1037/1040-3590.6.4.284
  • Clark, E. V. (1972). On the child's acquisition of antonyms in two semantic fields.Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 11, 750–758. doi:10.1016/S0022-5371(72)80009-4
  • Clark, H. H. (1970). The primitive nature of children's relational concepts.In J. R. Hayes (Ed.), Cognition and the development of language (pp. 269–278). New York, NY: Wiley.
  • Daneman, M., & Carpenter, P. A. (1980). Individual differences in working memory and reading.Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 19, 450–466.
  • Entwisle, D. R., Forsyth, D. F., & Muuss, R. (1964). The syntactic-paradigmatic shift in children's word associations.Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 3, 19–29.
  • Fenson, L., Marchman, V. A., Thal, D. J., Dale, P. S., Reznick, J. S., & Bates, E. (2007). The MacArthur–Bates Communicative Development Inventories: User's guide and technical manual. Baltimore, MD: Brookes.
  • Florit, E., Roch, M., Altoè, G., & Levorato, M. C. (2009). Listening comprehension in preschoolers: The role of memory.British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 27, 935–951.
  • Gathercole, S. E., & Pickering, S. J. (2000). Assessment of working memory in six- and seven-year-old children.Journal of Educational Psychology, 92, 377–390. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.92.2.377
  • Gathercole, S. E., Pickering, S. J., Ambridge, B., & Wearing, H. (2004). The structure of working memory from 4 to 15 years of age.Developmental Psychology, 40, 177–190. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.40.2.177
  • Hallgren, K. A. (2012). Computing inter-rater reliability for observational data: An overview and tutorial.Tutor Quantitative Methods Psychology, 8, 23–34.
  • Heidenheimer, P. (1975). The strategy of negation and the learning of antonymic relations.Developmental Psychology, 11, 757–762. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.11.6.757
  • Hresko, W. P., Reid, D. K., & Hammill, D. D. (1999). Test of early language development (3rd ed.). Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.
  • Jarman, R. F. (1980). Cognitive processes and syntactical structure: Analyses of paradigmatic and syntagmatic associations.Psychological Research, 41, 153–167.
  • Jones, S. (2002). Antonymy: A corpus-based approach. London, United Kingdom: Routledge.
  • Jones, S. (2007). “Opposites” in discourse: A comparison of antonym use across four domains.Journal of Pragmatics, 39, 1105–1119. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2006.11.019
  • Jones, S., & Murphy, M. L. (2005). Using corpora to investigate antonym acquisition.International Journal of Corpus Linguistics, 10, 401–422. doi:10.1075/ijcl.10.3.06jon
  • Jones, S., Murphy, M. L., Paradis, C., & Willners, C. (2012). Antonyms in English: Construals, constructions, and canonicity. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.
  • Kreezer, G., & Dallenbach, K. M. (1929). Learning the relation of opposition.The American Journal of Psychology, 41, 432–441. doi:10.2307/1414683
  • McGraw, K. O., & Wong, S. P. (1996). Forming inferences about some intraclass correlation coefficients.Psychological Methods, 1, 30–46. doi:10.1037/1082-989X.1.1.30
  • Montgomery, D. E., Anderson, M., & Uhl, E. (2008). Interference control in preschoolers: Factors influencing performance on the day–night task.Infant and Child Development, 17, 457–470.
  • Morgan, J. T., & Greene, T. R. (1994). An analysis of categorization style in preschoolers.Psychological Reports, 74, 59–66. doi:10.2466/pr0.1994.74.1.59
  • Morris, B. J. (2003). Opposites attract: The role of predicate dimensionality in preschool children's processing of negations.Journal of Child Language, 30, 419–440. doi:10.1017/S0305000903005610
  • Murphy, M. L. (2003). Semantic relations and the lexicon: Antonymy, synonymy, and other paradigms. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.
  • Murphy, M. L., & Jones, S. (2008). Antonyms in children's and child-directed speech.First Language, 28, 403–430. doi:10.1177/0142723708091047
  • Nelson, K. (1977). Syntagmatic paradigmatic shift revisited: Review of research and theory.Psychological Bulletin, 84, 93–116.
  • Nicholson, A., Whalen, J. M., & Pexman, P. M. (2013). Children's processing of emotion in ironic language.Frontiers in Developmental Psychology, 4, 691. doi:10.3389/psyg.2013.00691
  • Nilsen, E. S., & Graham, S. A. (2009). The relations between children's communicative perspective-taking and executive functioning.Cognitive Psychology, 58, 220–249. doi:10.1016/j.cogpsych.2008.07.002
  • Nilsen, E. S., Graham, S. A., Smith, S., & Chambers, C. G. (2008). Preschoolers' sensitivity to referential ambiguity: Evidence for a dissociation between implicit understanding and explicit behavior.Developmental Science, 11, 556–562. doi:10.1111/j.1467-7687.2008.00701.x
  • Owens, R. E. (2008). Language development: An introduction (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
  • Ruffman, T., Rustin, C., Garnham, W., & Parkin, A. J. (2001). Source monitoring and false memories in children: Relation to certainty and executive functioning.Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 80, 95–111. doi:10.1006/jecp.2001.2632
  • Simcock, G., & Hayne, H. (2003). Age-related changes in verbal and nonverbal memory during early childhood.Developmental Psychology, 39, 805–814. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.39.5.805
  • Tribushinina, E. (2013). Spatial adjectives in Dutch child language: Towards a usage-based model of adjective acquisition.In C. Paradis, J. Hudson, & U. Magnusson (Eds.), Conceptual spaces and the construal of spatial meaning: Empirical evidence from human communication (pp. 263–286). Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.
  • Tribushinina, E., van den Bergh, H., Kilani-Schoch, M., Adsu-Koc, A., Dabasinskiene, I., Hrzica, G., … Dressler, W. U. (2013). The role of explicit contrast in adjective acquisition: A cross-linguistic longitudinal study of adjective production in spontaneous child speech and parental input.First Language, 33, 594–616.
  • Trueswell, J., & Gleitman, L. (2004). Children's eye movements during listening: Developmental evidence for a constraint-based theory of sentence processing.In F. Henderson & J. M. Ferreira (Eds.), The interface of language, vision, and action: Eye movements and the visual world (pp. 319–346). New York, NY: Psychology Press.
  • Vilette, B. (2002). Do young children grasp the inverse relationship between addition and subtraction? Evidence against early arithmetic.Cognitive Development, 17, 1365–1383. doi:10.1016/S0885-2014(02)00125-9

Additional Resources