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Children’s use of demonstrative words: spatial deictics beyond infancy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 November 2022

Universidad de las Islas Baleares, España
Harmen B. GUDDE
School of Psychology, University of East Anglia, UK Experimental Psychology, Helmholtz Institute, Utrecht University, the Netherlands
School of Psychology, University of East Anglia, UK
School of Psychology, University of East Anglia, UK
*Corresponding author: Pedro Guijarro-Fuentes Address: Departamento de Filología Española, Moderna y Clásica; Universidad de las Islas Baleares; Edifici Ramon Llull; Campus Universitari, Km. 7.5; 07122 Palma de Mallorca (Islas Baleares); España. Email:


Demonstrative words are one of the most important ways of establishing reference in conversation. This work describes Spanish-speaking children’s demonstrative production between ages 2 to 10 using data from the CHILDES corpora. Results indicate that children feature all demonstratives in their lexicon – however, the distal term is scarce throughout development. Moreover, patterns of demonstrative use are not adult-like at age 10. We compare adult and child data to conclude that children’s development of demonstrative production is largely protracted. Adult use of the distal demonstrative is higher than in young children, although both older children and adults use the medial term ese more than any other demonstratives. In contrast, younger children use proximals relatively more frequently than older children and adults. Suggestions for future research and theoretical implications for the Spanish demonstrative system are discussed.

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© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

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