Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 47, Issue 6, pp 1321–1341 | Cite as

How Possessive Relations are Mapped onto Child Language: A View from Mandarin Chinese

  • Jiawei Shi
  • Peng ZhouEmail author


The present studies sought to investigate the mapping relations between language and cognition by focusing on how Mandarin-speaking children acquire the mapping between their conceptual knowledge of possession and their linguistic expressions of possession. Two experiments were conducted. Experiment 1 used a comprehension task to explore whether young children are able to map their knowledge of possessive constructions onto their interpretation of possessive relations. Experiment 2 employed a production task to examine whether they are able to map their knowledge of possessive relations onto their linguistic expressions of possession. The findings were that 4-year-olds exhibited correct comprehension and production of possessive DE constructions, indicating that by age 4, Mandarin-speaking children have already established the mapping between their conceptual knowledge of possession and their linguistic expressions of possession. By contrast, 3-year-olds exhibited response patterns that suggest a developmental stage where they use noun–noun compounds to represent possessive relations before they map possessive relations onto possessive constructions.


Possessive relations Possessive constructions Mapping Child language Mandarin Chinese 



This research was supported by Tsinghua University Initiative Scientific Research Program (2016THZWLJ14) to the corresponding author Peng Zhou. The authors are grateful to Stephen Crain and two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions on an earlier version of the paper. The authors would also like to thank the children and the teachers at Beijing Taolifangyuan Kindergarten, for their assistance and support in running the experiments.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, Child Cognition LabTsinghua UniversityBeijingChina

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