The learning of spatial prepositions is assumed to be based on experience in space. In a slow mapping study, we investigated whether 31 German 28-month-old children could robustly learn the German spatial prepositions hinter [behind] and neben [next to] from pictures, and whether a narrative input can compensate for a lack of immediate experience in space. One group of children received pictures with a narrative input as a training to understand spatial prepositions. In two further groups, we controlled (a) for the narrative input by providing unconnected speech during the training and (b) for the learning material by training the children on toys rather than pictures. We assessed children's understanding of spatial prepositions at three different time points: pretest, immediate test, and delayed posttest. Results showed improved word retention in children from the narrative but not the control group receiving unconnected speech. Neither of the trained groups succeeded in generalization to novel referents. Finally, all groups were instructed to deal with untrained material in the test to investigate the robustness of learning across tasks. None of the groups succeeded in this task transfer.
Rohlfing, K. J., & Nachtigäller, K. (2016). Can 28-month-old children learn spatial prepositions robustly from pictures? Yes, when narrative input is provided. Frontiers in Psychology, 7(JUL). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00961