negation, taxonomic and thematic relations


Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


The central focus of this project is to discover children’s understanding of the semantics, or meaning, of negation. Children’s knowledge of negation develops, in part, by directing attention away from a word to something else (i.e., contrast classes), yet little is known about to what attention is directed. Two possible relations upon which contrast classes operate are taxonomic and thematic relations. For example, when looking at the concept of a “dog”, a thematic relation could be a dog bone, while a taxonomic relation would be a cat. Two experiments were completed to look at children’s use of thematic and taxonomic relations in negations. Experiment 1 examined thematic and non-thematic relations while Experiment two compared thematic and taxonomic relations. Results demonstrated that children did not make use of thematic relations and preferred taxonomic to thematic relations. The results suggest that initial contrast classes appear to be formed via taxonomic but not thematic relations.

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