Relative roles of general and complementation language in theory-of-mind development: Evidence from Cantonese and English

Him CHEUNG, Hsuan-Chih CHEN, Nikki CREED, Lisa NG, Sui Ping WANG, Lei MO

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Abstract

Complex complements are clausal objects containing tensed verbs (e.g., that she cried) or infinitives (e.g., to cry), following main verbs of communication or mental activities (e.g., say, want). This research examined whether English- and Cantonese-speaking 4-year-olds' complement understanding uniquely predicts their representation of other minds (i.e., theory of mind). Results showed that neither meaning of main verbs (communication vs. desire) nor complement structure (tensed vs. infinitival) affected the correlation between complement understanding and theory of mind. More important, the correlation became insignificant after controlling for general language comprehension. These findings led to the conclusion that the syntax of complement per se does not contribute uniquely to theory-of-mind development; general language comprehension is a more important factor to consider. Copyright © 2004 by the Society for Research in Child Development, Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1155-1170
JournalChild Development
Volume75
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2004

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Theory of Mind
theory formation
comprehension
Language
communication
language
Communication
syntax
evidence
speaking
Child Development
Research
Society

Citation

Cheung, H., Chen, H.-C., Creed, N., Ng, L., Wang, S. P., & Mo, L. (2004). Relative roles of general and complementation language in theory-of-mind development: Evidence from Cantonese and English. Child Development, 75(4), 1155-1170. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2004.00731.x