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Child Development Research
Volume 2014 (2014), Article ID 575142, 8 pages
Research Article

Crosslinguistic Developmental Consistency in the Composition of Toddlers’ Internal State Vocabulary: Evidence from Four Languages

1Ludwig-Maximilians University, 80802 Munich, Germany
2Concordia University, Montréal, QC, Canada H4B 1R6
3The “G. d’Annunzio” University of Chieti-Pescara, 66100 Chieti, Italy

Received 14 June 2014; Accepted 28 July 2014; Published 21 August 2014

Academic Editor: Glenda Andrews

Copyright © 2014 Susanne Kristen et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Mental state language, emerging in the second and third years of life in typically developing children, is one of the first signs of an explicit psychological understanding. While mental state vocabulary may serve a variety of conversational functions in discourse and thus might not always indicate psychological comprehension, there is evidence for genuine references to mental states (desires, knowledge, beliefs, and emotions) early in development across languages. This present study presents parental questionnaire data on the composition of 297 toddler-aged (30-to 32-month-olds) children’s internal state vocabulary in four languages: Italian, German, English, and French. The results demonstrated that across languages expressions for physiological states (e.g., hungry and tired) were among the most varied, while children’s vocabulary for cognitive entities (e.g., know and think) proved to be least varied. Further, consistent with studies on children’s comprehension of these concepts, across languages children’s mastery of volition terms (e.g., like to do and want) preceded their mastery of cognition terms. These findings confirm the cross-linguistic consistency of children’s emerging expression of abstract psychological concepts.