Objects, motions, and paths: Spatial language in children with Williams syndrome

Barbara Landau, Andrea Zukowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The acquisition of spatial language is often assumed to be built upon an early-emerging system of nonlinguistic spatial knowledge. We tested this relationship by examining spatial language in children with Williams syndrome (WS), a rare genetic disorder that gives rise to severe nonlinguistic spatial deficits together with relatively spared language. Twelve children with WS, 12 normally developing mental-age matched children, and 12 normal adults described 80 videotaped motion events. Children with WS showed substantial control over key linguistic components of the motion event, including appropriate semantic and syntactic encoding of Figure and Ground objects, Manner of Motion, and Path. The expression of Path, although surprisingly spared, was more fragile among children with WS in contexts plausibly related to their nonlinguistic spatial deficit. The results show strong preservation of the formal aspects of spatial-linguistic knowledge and suggest that the nonlinguistic spatial deficits shown by children with WS have, at most, limited effects on their spatial language. These findings have implications for the relationship between spatial language and other aspects of spatial cognition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)105-137
Number of pages33
JournalDevelopmental Neuropsychology
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2003


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology

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