Donna L. Cook

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication Sciences & Disorders


The purpose of the present study was to determine the order of acquisition of the meanings of ten prepositions denoting spatial relations from the performance of sixty children on two tasks: a comprehension task which examined receptive understanding of the meanings of the prepositions, and a production task which examined verbal production of the prepositions. The subjects were divided by age into six groups of ten children each as follows: Group I: aged three years, zero months to three years, five months; Group II: aged three years, six months to three years, eleven months; Group III: aged four years, zero months to four years, five months; Group IV: aged four years, six months to four years, eleven months; Group V: aged five years, zero months to five years, five months; Group VI: aged five years, six months to five years, eleven months. The ten prepositions chosen for study were: 'in', 'out*, ’on', 'off', 'over', 'under', 'in front of', 'in back of', 'above' and 'below'.

In addition, it was also the purpose of the present study to develop and test an hypothesized order of acquisition based on a semantic feature analysis and to develop and examine the use of a semantic feature analysis of incorrect substitutions.

Analysis of both the correct identification of prepositions by the subjects and the incorrect substitutions produced by the subjects provided support for the existence of an order of acquisition of the selected spatial prepositions. The combined use of semantic feature analysis in a prediction of the orders of acquisition and in an analysis of substitutions revealed information regarding the development of semantic acquisition of the prepositions included in the present study.