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Alycia Hund

Mentor Department



Language is an important aspect of child development. Cardinal number words such as one, two, and three emerge before ordinal number words such as first, second, and third, though both increase with age in early childhood (Colomé & Noel, 2012). Children first learn verbal lists of number words, then they are able to give those words meaning (Slusser, Ditta, & Sarnecka, 2013). The more number words children know, the greater their ordinal comprehension (Brannon & Van de Walle, 2001). When children are less familiar with ordinal labels, it can negatively impact problem solving (Miller, Marcovitch, Boseovski, & Lewowicz, 2015). Spatial language also improves from 3 to 5 years and helps with problem solving (Hund, Bianchi, Winner, & Hesson-Mcinnis, 2017; Simms & Genter, 2019). Our goal was to specify the developmental trajectory of cardinal, ordinal, and spatial language comprehension and production for 3- to 5- year old children. Children were randomly assigned to either the Tell Me or Give Me condition. In the Tell Me condition, children were asked to tell the researcher about an indicated car, testing language production; whereas, in the Give Me condition, children were asked to respond to our labels by putting the appropriate car(s) in the garage, testing language comprehension. All children completed cardinal, ordinal, and spatial trials in counterbalanced order. Cardinal trials included cardinal numeric words, such as one or three. Ordinal trials included sequential numeric words, such as first or third. Spatial trials probed locations, such as front, middle, or back. To date, 65 children have participated. Data collection has not been possible during the Covid-19 pandemic. As predicted, preliminary analyses revealed that there were significant improvements across development in cardinal, ordinal, and spatial language. Five-year-olds (M = .76, SE = .05) were significantly more accurate than were 4-year-olds (M = .59, SE = .03), who were significantly more accurate than 3-year-olds (M = .46, SE = .04). In addition, the Give Me group performed higher than the Tell Me group, suggesting comprehension may be easier than production. Children were significantly more accurate on cardinal trials (M = .87, SE = .03) than on spatial trials (M = .58, SE = .04) and on spatial trials than on ordinal trials (M = .36, SE = .04). Once completed, the results of this study may be helpful for understanding the ways in which complex language facilitates developmental success across domains.


Authors: Rebecca Bove, Lucy Okrasinski, Jacqueline Diaz, Ella Metzger, Olivia Mangini, Alycia Hund

Improvements In Cardinal, Ordinal, And Spatial Language In Young Children