What does it mean to 'live' and 'die'? A cross-linguistic analysis of parent-child conversations in English and Indonesian

Erin M. Leddon*, Sandra R. Waxman, Douglas L. Medin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

Previous work on children's intuitive knowledge about the natural world has documented their difficulty in acquiring an overarching concept of biological life that includes plants as well as humans and non-human animals. It has also suggested that the acquisition of fundamental biological concepts like alive and die may be influenced by the language used to describe them, as evidenced by differences between English- and Indonesian-speaking children's performance in tasks involving these concepts. Here, we examine one particularly important source of linguistic information available to children during this acquisition process: everyday conversations with their parents. We take a cross-linguistic approach in analysing the evidence available to English- and Indonesian-speaking children as they acquire meanings for words corresponding to the concepts alive and die. Our analysis illustrates that young children acquiring English and Indonesian are faced with distinct problems, but that parental input in both languages does little to support the acquisition of broad, inclusive biological concepts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375-395
Number of pages21
JournalBritish Journal of Developmental Psychology
Volume29
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience

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