Modern psycholinguistic studies started to use experimental and child language observational data on spatial language to obtain evidence for the primacy issue: what leads, language or spatial cognition in the articulation of spatial language. The author's studies on Hungarian, a language characterized by rich agglutination and an articulate spatial language system follow this pattern. The author was particularly interested to see how the unfolding and impairment of the spatial language system supports claims of universality in a language where some conceptual distinctions are particularly easy to observe due to the clear and obligatory marking. Hungarian data illustrate how a universal cognitive tendency - the primacy of goals - can be shown to exist very early on in a language that requires distinctions along the path (e.g. in, into,'from inside'). This tendency was shown in learning artificial space markers as well, and it was present both in normal and in developmentally impaired populations, notably in Williams syndrome. At the same time, probably due to their impairments to the parietal lobe, Williams syndrome subjects do show a lower performance in spatial language. However, this lower performance follows the same pattern as in typically developing subjects. The paper tries to relate the different approaches, namely psychological, linguistic, developmental, neuroscience, and evolutionary approaches to understand the complexity of coding spatial distinctions in language.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.