Advertisement

Journal of Cultural Cognitive Science

, Volume 2, Issue 1–2, pp 9–20 | Cite as

Effect of Hindi, Sanskrit and Urdu medium schooling on spatial language and encoding

  • Ramesh C. Mishra
  • Rajesh K. Jha
Research Paper

Abstract

Spatial cognition refers to the process through which people acquire knowledge of the location of objects in their surrounding environment. Studies suggest that people use different spatial frames of reference to describe the location of objects in space. The present study examines the frames of reference used by 10–15-year-old students attending Hindi, Sanskrit and Urdu medium schools at Varanasi in performing spatial cognitive tasks. Traditional schools, such as Sanskrit and Urdu medium schools, provide substantial experience and training in the use of a geocentric frame of reference based on cardinal directions (i.e., north, south, east and west). In view of this, it was expected that children attending these schools would use a geocentric frame of reference more than those attending Hindi medium school. Using a variety of procedures, the spatial frames of reference used in description and encoding of objects by students in Hindi, Sanskrit and Urdu medium schools were assessed. The results indicated that traditional Sanskrit and Urdu medium school students used more geocentric language for description of spatial objects and they also engaged in greater geocentric encoding of those objects than the students of Hindi medium schools.

Keywords

Cardinal directions Geocentric frame of reference Hindi medium schools Spatial encoding Traditional schools 

Introduction

The study examines the development of spatial cognition in Hindi, Sanskrit and Urdu medium school students. Spatial cognition is a process through which we acquire knowledge of the location of objects in the surrounding environment. Studies indicate that, depending on ecological demands and cultural experiences, people use different frames of reference to understand and describe the location of objects in space, and that children from a very early age begin to use these spatial frames (Dasen and Mishra 2010; Levinson 2003; Mishra et al. 2003).

According to Levinson (2003), three frames of reference can be used to describe the location of objects in a restricted (e.g., table-top) space: intrinsic, relative (sometimes called egocentric) and absolute (also called geocentric). This corresponds roughly to what Piaget and Inhelder (1956) termed topological, projective and Euclidean space, or what Taylor and Tversky (1996) termed object-centered, viewer-centered, and environment-centered space. In the intrinsic/topological frame, objects are situated in reference to each other (next to, near, inside, to the nose of the car, etc.). The egocentric frame uses the point of view of the speaker, using mainly right and left, but also front and back. The geocentric frame makes use of distant geographic features (to the mountain/sea; uphill/downhill) or coordinates (cardinal directions of north, south, east, west) to speak about local table space, including inside a room.

Piaget and Inhelder (1956) and other Western developmental psychologists (see Newcombe and Huttenlocher 2000) suggest that the ability to take other’s point of view into account (i.e., perspective taking) develops with age in which children become capable of coordinating different points of view of observers looking at the same objects from different perspectives. In describing the position of an object or a person, a geocentric child uses environment-centered or geocentric frames of reference, such as cardinal directions of north, south, east and west (NSEW), as in ‘the person on the West is holding a ball in his left hand’. In an egocentric frame, left, right, front and back (LRFB) projective notions are used, as in ‘the person on the Right is holding a ball in his left hand’. Therefore, the description of an object or a person changes depending on one’s body position. In the geocentric frame, the description does not change with the viewer’s change of position; north and south still remain north and south.

Socio-cultural conditions provide children with opportunities to acquire, organize, and use spatial knowledge according to different culturally reinforced spatial frames of reference. These conditions not only influence the perception and description of space (Spencer and Darvizeh 1983), but also the memory of objects and their location in space (Niraula and Mishra 2001). The ecological and cultural experiences children encounter in the course of their development are clearly associated with changes in their spatial knowledge and behavior (Dasen and Mishra 2010; Mishra et al. 2003).

Language plays an important role in the description of space. Different languages induce distinct conceptual schemes for coding of space (Bowerman 1993; Levinson et al. 2002). Rotation experiments reveal that the absolute speakers are more likely to give non-linguistic responses based on the absolute frame of reference than relative speakers (Pederson 1995; Pederson et al. 1998). Levinson (1996) has examined the dead-reckoning and navigational abilities of individuals in various cultures and reported that these vary with the frame of reference that predominates in their language. These studies indicate that language matters in how people encode spatial arrays. On the other hand, Li and Gleitman (2002) have shown that American students obtain any of the relevant conceptual coding schemes just by varying spatial cues.

Western developmental studies suggest that spatial concept development starts in relation to the child’s own body, both at the sensory motor level of action, and later at the representational level. Some researchers consider this egocentric conception of space as universal (see Acredolo 1990; Bremner 1989; Clark 1973; Miller and Johnson-Laird 1976). Contrary to this notion, Wassmann and Dasen (1998) reported that people in Bali (Indonesia) used the geocentric orientation system to space from their early childhood. Dasen and Mishra (2010) found almost similar results in India in the case of village children. These children acquired geocentric spatial language from their parents (particularly mothers) in the course of socialization (Dasen and Mishra 2010), whereas children in Nepal were found to acquire geocentric spatial language mainly through schooling (Niraula and Mishra 2001; Niraula et al. 2004).

It is a well-known fact that formal schooling has a pervasive effect on cognitive development (Mishra 1997, 2014; Rogoff 1981; Tulviste 1991), including spatial cognitive development (Mishra and Dasen 2004). Studies carried out in India and Nepal (Dasen et al. 2006; Mishra and Dasen 2005, 2013; Mishra et al. 2003, 2009; Niraula et al. 2004) indicate that the use of a particular frame of reference in language or cognition is encouraged by ecological conditions and is reinforced by cultural practices of the given populations.

Several studies show that task characteristics or experimental situations have significant effect on spatial cognitive behavior so much so that the proportion of responses classified as egocentric or geocentric at a given age has been found to be linked with the nature of the task. For example, Levinson’s (2003) “Animal in Row” task has been found to produce more absolute encoding, while “Steve’s Maze” (see Levinson 2003) has been found to produce more relative encoding in Bali (Wassmann and Dasen 1998), in New Caledonia (Cottereau-Reiss 1999, 2001), in Nepal (Niraula et al. 2004) and in India (Dasen and Mishra 2010; Mishra and Dasen 2005). Hatwell (1990) has reported similar results. On the other hand, in the Trobriand Islands, Senft (2001) found predominantly absolute encoding on the same task on which other studies have reported relative encoding. As Mishra et al. (2003) argue, the systematic difference in task performance could be a matter of the ease in linguistic encoding, and the same task can also produce different results depending on the details of the procedure.

In this study we examine the development of spatial language and encoding among children attending modern Hindi and traditional Sanskrit and Urdu medium schools. While modern Hindu medium schools are relatively recent introductions in the educational system of India, Sanskrit schools are the age-old institutions of teaching and learning for the Hindu society (Kumar 2000; Mishra 1988). Description of spatial language in Sanskrit literature is found in the Rigveda (Mishra and Vajpayee 2008) in which reference is made of ten cardinal directions (Uttar, Dakshin, Purva, Paschim, Ishan, Agneya, Vayavya, Nairitya, Urdhva and Adhar). While Uttar, Dakshin, Purva and Pashchim represent north, south, east and west, Ishan, Agneya, Vayavya and Niritya represent north-east, south-east, south-west and north-west respectively. Urdhva represents ‘above the earth” and Adhar ‘below the earth’. Children attending Sanskrit schools learn to distinguish these cardinal directions in daily rituals and practices, which should encourage the learning and use of geocentric terms and absolute encoding. On the other hand, they also learn to change left and right hands several times according to the instructions, or the principles of the rituals they observe in daily life, which should encourage the learning and use of egocentric terms and relative encoding as well.

Quranic schools have served as age-old institutions of teaching and learning for the Muslim society. These schools offer elementary to higher levels of education largely based on Quran, but also a basic education in mathematics, history, and geography, etc. Certain cultural practices (e.g., Namaz) require the knowledge of cardinal directions (e.g., the direction of Mucca), and also of the left and right for other purposes.

In contrast to traditional schools, Hindi medium schools refer to those schools that are modeled on the Western system of education. The history of these schools is not very old, but their impact on the society is widespread. These schools provide knowledge of cardinal directions through books, but their use in day-to-day life is not essential except for some activities in home (e.g., avoid facing south while sleeping or eating). Although the geocentric and egocentric notions of space seem to be combined in daily life of Hindi medium school children, learning of geocentric spatial concepts is not emphasized in the school setting.

The studies mentioned above indicate that development of spatial language and encoding depends on a number of factors. Schooling, especially the type of schooling, is one of them (Mishra and Dasen 2004; Mishra 2014). While there are studies of spatial language and cognition carried out with English, Sanskrit, Nepali, and Hindi medium school children and adolescents (Dasen and Mishra 2010), the way spatial language and spatial cognitive processes are organized in Urdu medium school children is not known at all.

In the light of the general findings and theoretical predictions available in this area, it was hypothesized that, in describing and interpreting spatial location of objects, Sanskrit and Urdu medium school students would use more geocentric language and absolute encoding than the Hindi medium school students.

Method

Sample

The study was conducted in Varanasi city (India) with 180 students, aged 10–15 years. It is this age range during which the spatial frame of reference takes a final shape and gets stabilized (Dasen and Mishra 2010). The sample was drawn from three kinds of school (i.e., Hindi, Sanskrit and Urdu medium schools). From each type of school, 60 boys were selected randomly. The participants represented three age groups namely 10–11 years, 12–13 years and 14–15 years, and in each age group there were 20 participants. In the city of Varanasi, people speak Hindi language and use both geocentric as well as egocentric frames of reference for route direction or object localization.

Tasks

The participants were given two tasks.

Route task

Niraula and Mishra (2001) had developed a Route Task for the study of the processes of spatial encoding, spatial memory, and spatial interpretation of objects. The task consists of a picture, which displays sixteen objects (e.g., bicycle, cow, and hut, etc.) along a road. The rising Sun is depicted in the picture, but the participants’ attention is never drawn to it, or the direction it refers to.

The participant is shown the picture for approximately 120 s, and is asked to point out and name each object depicted in the picture, such as bicycle, cow, hut, etc. After 120 s, the picture is removed and the participant is presented with another picture in which only the road and the rising Sun are depicted. The child is asked to recall the location of different objects with reference to the road. Sixteen questions are asked to the child; each question relates to the location of an object in the spatial layout (e.g., Where was the cart from the road? Where was the hut from the road?).

In the third phase, the participant’s understanding of directions is assessed. The participant is asked to point to north, south, east, and west (NSEW) in the picture, and also to his left, right, front and back (LRFB). The participant is helped to identify these directions through questions such as: “Where does the Sun rise in the morning”? “In which direction are your right and left hands when you face the rising Sun?” Then the picture is presented again before the participants and they are asked to tell the position of objects from each other (e.g., which side is the bicycle from the hut? Or, which side is the cow from the hand pump?). Questions are asked in a manner such that all absolute (NSEW) and relative directions (LRFB) are covered equally. Taken together 16 questions are asked.

The task was given under two conditions. In one, the participant was facing the West; in the second, the participant was facing the East. In each condition, the score range was 0–16, both for language and encoding, respectively. By combining the scores of the second and the third phases of testing, we get a score range of 0–64. Inter-item correlations in both conditions were fairly high (0.94–0.99).

Perspective task

This task was modeled on Niraula et al. (2004). Three familiar non-fronted objects (a round temple-shaped object, a tumbler-shaped object, and a round flower pot) were set on a table as a triangular pattern. The participant was asked to describe each object from three different positions (i.e., north, south and east) by moving around the display. Then the participant was asked to stay at position 3 (i.e., the east), and a doll was placed in the opposite direction. The participant was presented with three pictures of the display taken from different positions, and was asked to choose the one that showed the objects the way the doll would see them from her position.

The task was scored for the use of geocentric (G) and egocentric (E) description of objects, and for the accuracy of the choice of pictures. Since the child described each object from three different positions, the score range was zero to nine (0–9).

Results

In the initial analysis of results, the scores of G language, G encoding, E language and E encoding on the Route and Perspectives tasks were considered separately. The pattern of results obtained with the use of ANOVA on the two tasks was highly similar for the effects of age and type of schooling. Hence, scores obtained by participants on the two tasks were combined to derive single scores for G language, G encoding, E language and E encoding measures respectively. Also, there was a highly positive correlation between language use on these tasks (for E language, r = 0.91, p < 0.001; for G language, r = 0.94, p < 0.011). The overall score range was 0–73. All analyses were carried out on these combined scores.

Geocentric language

Table 1 shows the mean and SD of G language scores of different age and school groups. At each age level, Sanskrit and Urdu medium school participants obtained higher scores as compared to Hindi medium school participants. With advancing age, there is a general decline in scores of all school groups. Figure 1 presents these developmental trends.
Table 1

Mean and SD of groups on G language measure

Age levels

Hindi-medium school

Sanskrit-medium school

Urdu-medium school

10–11 years

 Mean

24.60

41.05

50.10

 SD

24.54

33.23

27.66

12–13 years

 Mean

10.30

36.15

30.00

 SD

20.08

29.22

31.90

14–15 years

 Mean

19.30

31.50

28.95

 SD

27.00

24.46

26.55

Fig. 1

Mean score of groups on the G language measure

Since there were three age and three school groups, a 3 × 3 factorial ANOVA was used for the analysis of results. The analysis revealed the effects of age [F(2, 171) = 4.20, p = 0.016] and school [F(2, 171) = 8.82, p = 0.001] to be significant. The interaction between age and school [F(2, 171) = .78, p = 0.540] was not significant, suggesting that age related differences were more or less uniform in all schools. Levene’s test revealed that the variance in scores was not equal across all the groups [F(8, 171) = 2.07, p = 0.041]. Although ANOVA is a robust procedure (Kirk 1982), the heterogeneity of variance in scores of groups asks for findings to be taken with caution.

Since there were nine groups constituted by three levels of age and three types of school, Tukey’s post hoc test was used for making intergroup comparisons. The findings revealed that Hindi medium school participants differed significantly from Sanskrit (mean difference = 18.17, p = 0.001) and Urdu (mean difference = 18.28, p = 0.001) medium school participants. No significant difference between Sanskrit and Urdu medium school participants was observed (mean difference = 0.12, p = 1.000).

Egocentric language

The mean and SD of E language scores for different age and school groups are given in Table 2. It is to be noted that E language was used more by Hindi medium school participants than Sanskrit and Urdu medium school participants. In the Hindi medium school, while the increase in E language use was noted up to 12–13 years, after which there was a decline, in the Sanskrit and Urdu medium schools, the use of E language increased with age (see Fig. 2).
Table 2

Mean and SD of groups on the E language measure

Age levels

Hindi-medium school

Sanskrit-medium school

Urdu-medium school

10–11 years

 Mean

47.00

31.60

22.55

 SD

23.56

32.81

27.33

12–13 years

 Mean

60.70

36.80

41.70

 SD

20.30

29.16

31.91

14–15 years

 Mean

53.20

40.85

43.30

 SD

26.65

24.32

26.06

Fig. 2

Mean score of groups on the E language measure

Since there were three age and three school groups, a 3 × 3 factorial ANOVA was used for the analysis of results. The analysis revealed significant effects of age [F(2, 171) = 4.16, p = 0.017] and school [F(2, 171) = 8.31, p = 0.001]. The interaction effect [F(2, 171) = 0.65, p = 0.623] was not significant, suggesting that age related differences were more or less uniform across schools. Levene’s test revealed that the variance in scores across all the groups was equal [F(8, 171) = 1.920, p = 0.060].

Tukey’s post hoc test was again used for intergroup comparison of means. The analysis brought out a significant difference between Hindi and Sanskrit medium school participants (mean difference = 17.22, p < 0.001), and between Hindi and Urdu medium school participants (mean difference = 17.78, p < 0.001). Sanskrit and Urdu medium school participants (mean difference = 0.57, p > 0.05) did not differ significantly from each other.

Geocentric encoding

Table 3 presents the mean and SD of G encoding scores of different age and school groups. Sanskrit and Urdu medium school participants obtained higher scores on this measure as compared to Hindi medium school participants. With age there is generally a decline in scores of all school groups (see Fig. 3). High values of SD in some cases are again to be noted.
Table 3

Mean and SD of groups on G encoding measure

Age-levels

Hindi-medium school

Sanskrit-medium school

Urdu-medium school

10–11 years

 Mean

19.75

35.60

37.15

 SD

20.97

28.83

26.16

12–13 years

 Mean

7.40

30.55

23.55

 SD

13.73

25.27

25.80

14–15 years

 Mean

10.80

26.50

17.45

 SD

16.46

22.69

18.35

Fig. 3

Mean score of groups on the G encoding measure

ANOVA revealed significant effects of age (F = 5.32, df = 2, 171, p < 0.01) and school (F = 10.54, df = 2, 171, p < 0.001). The interaction between age and school was not significant (F = 0.55, df = 2, 171, p > 0.05) suggesting that the developmental trend for G encoding in all school groups was almost similar.

Tukey’s post hoc test revealed a significant difference between Hindi and Sanskrit medium school participants (mean difference = 18.23, p < 0.001) and between Hindi and Urdu medium school participants (mean difference = 13.40, p < 0.001). No significant difference was observed between Sanskrit and Urdu medium school participants.

Egocentric encoding

Table 4 shows the mean and SD of the scores on E encoding of different age and school groups. At each age level, Hindi medium school participants scored higher on E encoding as compared to Sanskrit and Urdu medium school participants. Overall, there is a trend for increase in egocentric encoding with age (see Fig. 4).
Table 4

Mean and SD of groups on E encoding measure

Agelevels

Hindi-medium school

Sanskrit-medium school

Urdu-medium school

10–11 years

 Mean

39.10

26.55

19.65

 SD

24.01

30.24

25.12

12–13 years

 Mean

53.10

25.60

31.15

 SD

19.70

23.84

27.42

14–15 years

 Mean

46.45

34.05

36.15

 SD

26.73

20.69

23.07

Fig. 4

Mean score of groups on the E encoding measure

ANOVA revealed significant effects of age (F = 2.96, df = 2, 171, p < 0.01) and school (F = 9.85, df = 2, 171, p < 0.001). There was no significant interaction (F = 0.84, df = 1, 171, p > 0.05) among variables suggesting that age related differences in scores were more or less of the same order in all schools. Here again, we find high values of SD in some cases, which warn us against taking the findings with caution.

Tukey’s post hoc test revealed a significant difference between Hindi and Sanskrit medium school participants (mean difference = 17.48, p < 0.001), and between Hindi and Urdu medium school participants (mean difference = 17.23, p < 0.001). The difference between Sanskrit and Urdu medium school participants was not significant.

The overall findings suggest: (1) greater use of G language and G encoding by Sanskrit and Urdu medium school participants than by Hindi medium school participants, (2) a decline in G language and G encoding, and an increase in E language and E encoding, with advancing age of children, and (3) a less perfect relationship between the spatial frames of reference used in language and encoding.

Discussion

The findings of the study are generally in support of our hypothesis. While all school groups used G language and G encoding in describing and interpreting objects in the spatial layout, the findings indicate a predominance of G language and G encoding in the case of Sanskrit and Urdu medium school participants, while E language and E encoding are dominant in case of the Hindi medium school participants. On all measures, Hindi medium school participants differed significantly from Sanskrit and Urdu medium school participants, but Sanskrit and Urdu medium school participants did not differ significantly from each other on any of the measures.

It is to be noted that all participants of the study were living within the geographical area of Varanasi city. In spite of this common background, Sanskrit and Urdu medium school children developed a stronger G frame of reference, both in their language and cognition, than the Hindi medium school participants. What might be the reason for this? In the case of Sanskrit medium school children, we have indicated earlier that these children are socialized in an environment in which they learn to use egocentric and geocentric spatial cues from the early childhood. On the one hand, they are socialized to use the right hand for many auspicious activities (such as eating, rituals, etc.) and avoid using the left hand in such activities. On the other hand, they are also oriented to keep track of the cardinal directions in order to perform a variety of activities, both religious as well as non-religious. While they bathe in the Ganges, or pray in temples, or eat food, or arrange their bed, etc., they have to remember and keep track of the cardinal directions.

As we have noted earlier, space in Sanskrit scriptures is divided into ten segments, each with a distinct name indicating a particular direction, and a particular God associated with each direction. The mental representation or cognitive map of space of Sanskrit medium school participants is based on this particular scheme. Children are not only taught about these cardinal directions along with their cultural significance, but they are also required to use them in their daily practices (e.g., in morning and evening prayers) in close supervision of either a teacher or senior students. Those, who make errors in this process, are corrected with some lessons about how to make an accurate judgment of directions.

A spatial orientation system similar to that of Sanskrit medium school children is also available to Urdu medium school children. These children go to mosques, where they perform Namaz (almost five times a day) while facing the West (the direction of Mucca). For the Muslim society, the West is the most auspicious direction. People orient themselves to the West not only for daily prayers (Namaz), but also for a number of other purposes (e.g., eating, sleeping). They prefer to have the main door of their house opening in the West, and within the premises of the house, they avoid building washrooms in that direction. Differentiation of the West requires a clear understanding of other cardinal directions. Experiences and learning opportunities, which encourage an accurate knowledge of cardinal directions, are available in Urdu medium schools almost as much as in Hindi medium schools, both as formal lessons in books and as informal modules of teaching and training.

The findings for Sanskrit medium school participants are in consonance with those reported by Vajpayee et al. (2008) about Sanskrit and Hindi medium school children with respect to their knowledge of cardinal directions and their use in language and encoding of spatial cognitive tasks. They also correspond with the findings of another study in which Mishra et al. (2009) compared dead reckoning of Sanskrit medium and Hindi medium school children. Children were asked to indicate the four cardinal directions (NSEW), first with eyes open, and then after being blindfolded. Later they were walked to another room with the blindfold on, and asked to tell the four cardinal directions. The movement between the two places required several turns. The findings revealed that, during the movement, Sanskrit medium school children were engaged in constant updating of their position according to cardinal directions more than the Hindi medium school children. The authors argued that holding cardinal directions in mind all the time and judging one’s position in relation to them is an essential feature of using a geocentric frame of orientation. Sanskrit school children had shown a perfect knowledge of the NSEW orientation system as against the Hindi medium school children.

An orientation system based on cardinal directions, such as occurred in Sanskrit and Urdu medium school participants, is congruent with their socialization experiences, religious activities, daily routines, and practices. The cultural belief system about purity and impurity of directions is an overwhelming part of Hindu and Muslim life, and it is linked in important ways to the manner in which space is conceptualized. This belief system reinforces a geocentric frame of reference in two ways. Firstly, it provides symbolic meaning to geocentric dimensions, such as considering East and West as holy directions. Secondly, it provides continuous experience with taking these directions into account in daily life, be it during religious rituals themselves, or in connected customs, such as respect for directions in activities like eating or sleeping.

Looking at the data of this study it appears that socialization into Hindu and Muslim cosmology, which regularly takes place in Sanskrit and Urdu medium schools, fosters knowledge of spatial orientation system, which encourages greater use of geocentric spatial language and greater geocentric spatial encoding compared to the Hindi school socialization experiences. We believe that regular opportunities for learning and practice of the geocentric reference system in Sanskrit and Urdu medium schools are mainly responsible for the development of a strong geocentric orientation among Sanskrit and Urdu medium school participants.

Another important feature of our results is a decline in the G language and G encoding with advancing age. On the other hand, we also notice a corresponding increase in the use of E language and E encoding, particularly in the Sanskrit and Urdu medium school participants. According to the Western developmental theories, one would predict a change from an egocentric towards the use of more geocentric spatial language and encoding. In a previous study Dasen and Mishra (2010) reported the functional value of an egocentric frame of reference in the city environment. The narrow and crowded lanes of Varanasi city do not allow easy access to geocentric cues (e.g., the Sun or other visible landmarks like temple shrines, etc.). In his kind of environment, it is easy to talk about and remember location of objects in terms of left and right aided by some situation-specific landmarks to coordinate one’s own movements and guide others. Older age children of Sanskrit and Urdu medium schools learn to use this reference system while they negotiate life away from home, on streets or in lanes, with many others who, like the Hindi medium school participants, can use the E frame of reference efficiently. Learning this system also enhances the chance of interaction of Sanskrit and Urdu medium school students with those who go to Hindi medium schools.

Is the G frame of reference more effective than the E frame of reference, or vice versa, for encoding spatial information? The answer is certainly “no”. These frames of reference refer to two different cognitive styles, which people preferentially use for dealing with spatial information (Dasen and Mishra 2010, 2013) none of which is better or worse, or superior or inferior, than the other. Ecological and cultural experiences often lead to the development and preferential use of one style over the other, but people can also switch between the two styles depending on the demands of the task. This viewpoint finds some support from another study (Jha and Mishra 2017). On the Perspective task in this study, the participants were asked to choose a card of the display that would represent the perspective of the doll. The finding showed that the geocentric children made almost as many correct choices as did the egocentric children. The difference between the G and E groups with respect to correct choice of the card was not significant. The result indicates that the difference between the G and E participants primarily lies in the way they prefer to work on a spatial cognitive task rather than in their competence to perform the task.

Does language determine cognition as the linguistic relativity theorists claim (see Gumperz and Levinson 1996)? Our findings are in support of only a moderate form of linguistic relativity hypothesis. Overall the match between language the participants used to describe the spatial display and the way they encoded it is above the chance level (i.e., 50%), but in none of the samples is there a perfect match between language and encoding. In all samples, there are instances of E description but G encoding, or of G description but E encoding. This aspect, however, requires a separate analysis of data in order to specify the exact degree of match or mismatch between language and encoding.

Dasen and Mishra (2010) indicate factors such as children’s own mobility, their participation in activities outside the school (e.g., tutoring, sports, religious or artistic activities, etc.), and their contact with village to be linked to the development of a geocentric spatial frame of reference. These factors have not been implicated much in research on spatial language and cognition, and not at all in case of the Urdu medium school children. We hope that future research in this area will focus on these factors in order to examine whether Hindi, Sanskrit, and Urdu medium school children also differ on these parameters besides the specific experiences encountered in their respective schools.

In cultural and cross-cultural studies, there is often a problem of confounding of variables, and it is not easy to tease them apart experimentally. Berry (1983) has used the term ‘textured contexts’ to refer to this situation in which several elements are fused together to form a pattern that represents a variable. For example, it is almost impossible to find a Hindu child attending an Urdu medium school, or a Muslim child attending a Sanskrit medium school. In this situation, one may ask, “What does account for geocentric or egocentric encoding: the cultural background of participants, or their school experiences, or the language they speak. The language issue is not that important in our study, since all children spoke Hindi language. Between cultural background and schooling, we believe that schooling is more important. Children of Hindu cultural background, who attended Hindi medium schools, mainly used an egocentric spatial frame of reference, both in language and cognition, whereas in Sanskrit schools, they generally used a geocentric spatial frame of reference. Whether a similar shift in the use of spatial frame of reference in the case of Muslim children is possible can be examined by organizing another study with children of Muslim cultural background who attend a Hindi or English medium school.

References

  1. Acredolo, L. P. (1990). Behavioral approaches to spatial orientation ininfancy. In A. Diamond (Ed.), The development and neural bases ofhighercorticalfunction (pp. 596–612). New York: The New York Academy of Science.Google Scholar
  2. Berry, J. W. (1983). Textured contexts: Systems and situations in cross-cultural psychology. In S. H. Irvine & J. W. Berry (Eds.), Human assessment and cultural factors (pp. 117–126). New York: Plenum Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bowerman, M. (1993). The origins of children’s spatial semantic categories: Cognitive versus linguistic determinants. In J. J. Gumperz & S. C. Levinson (Eds.), Rethinking linguistic relativity (pp. 7–15). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bremner, G. (1989). Development of spatial awareness in infacy. In A. Slater & G. Bremner (Eds.), Infants development (pp. 123–141). Hove: Lawrence Erbaum.Google Scholar
  5. Clark, H. (1973). Space, time, semantics and the child. In T. E. Moore (Ed.), Cognitive development and the acquisition of language (pp. 27–63). New York: Academic Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cottereau-Reiss, P. (1999). Kanak space or how not to get lost. Annales Fyssen, 14(1), 34–45.Google Scholar
  7. Cottereau-Reiss, P. (2001). Langages d espace l exemple kanak. In C. Sabatier & P. R. Dasen (Eds.), Cultures, developpement et education: autres, enfants, autres ecoles (pp. 159–168). Paris: L Hartmann.Google Scholar
  8. Dasen, P. R., & Mishra, R. C. (2010). Development of geocentric spatial language and cognition: An eco-cultural perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dasen, P. R., & Mishra, R. C. (2013). Cultural differences in cognitive styles. In B. R. Kar (Ed.), Cognition and brain development: Converging evidences from various methodologies (pp. 232–249). Washington DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  10. Dasen, P. R., Mishra, R. C., Niraula, S., & Wassmann, J. (2006). Développement du language et de la cognition spatial géocentrique. Enfance, 58(2), 146–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gumperz, J. J., & Levinson, S. C. (1996). Rethinking linguistic relativity. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Hatwell, Y. (1990). The development of spatial concepts from Piaget to information processing theories. In G. Netchine-Grynberg (Ed.), Cognitive development and functioning in children (pp. 53–69). Paris: PUF.Google Scholar
  13. Jha, R.K., & Mishra, R.C. (2017). Spatial cognition and perspective taking in children in different types of school. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Psychology, Banaras Hindu University.Google Scholar
  14. Kirk, R. (1982). Experimental design: Procedures for the behavioral sciences. Belmont, California: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  15. Kumar, N. (2000). Lessons from schools. The history of education in Banaras. New Delhi: SAGE Publications.Google Scholar
  16. Levinson, S. C. (1996). Frames of reference and Molyneux’s question: Cross-linguistic evidence. In P. Bloom, M. Peterson, L. Nadel, & M. Garrett (Eds.), Language and space (pp. 109–169). Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  17. Levinson, S. C. (2003). Space in language and cognition: Explorations in cognitive diversity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Levinson, S. C., Kita, S., Haun, B. M., & Rasch, B. H. (2002). Returning the tables: Language affects spatial reasoning. Cognition, 84(2), 155–188.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Li, P., & Gleitman, L. (2002). Turning the tables: Language and spatial reasoning. Cognition, 8(3), 265–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Miller, G., & Johnson-Laird, P. (1976). Language and perception. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Mishra, R. C. (1988). Learning strategies among children in modern and traditional schools. Indian Psychologist, 5(1), 17–24.Google Scholar
  22. Mishra, R. C. (1997). Cognition and cognitive development. In J. W. Berry, P. R. Dasen, & T. S. Saraswathi (Eds.), Handbook of cross-cultural psychology (Vol. 2, pp. 143–176). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  23. Mishra, R. C. (2014). Effects of Sanskrit schooling on cognitive and social processes. Psychology and Developing Societies, 26(1), 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Mishra, R. C., & Dasen, P. R. (2004). The influence of schooling on cognitive development: A review of research in India. In B. N. Setiadi, A. Supratiknya, W. J. Lonner, & Y. H. Poortinga (Eds.), Ongoing themes in psychology and culture (pp. 207–222). Yogjakarta: Kanisius.Google Scholar
  25. Mishra, R. C., & Dasen, P. R. (2005). Spatial language and cognitive development in India: An urban/rural comparison. In W. Friedlmiere, P. Chakkarath, & B. Schwarz (Eds.), Culture and human development: The importance of cross-cultural research to the social sciences (pp. 153–178). New York: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  26. Mishra, R. C., & Dasen, P. R. (2013). Development of spatial language and cognition in Hindi- and Sanskrit-medium schools. Psychological Studies, 58(4), 446–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mishra, R. C., Dasen, P. R., & Niraula, S. (2003). Ecology, language, and performance on spatial cognitive tasks. International Journal of Psychology, 38(6), 366–383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mishra, R. C., Singh, S., & Dasen, P. R. (2009). Geocentric dead reckoning in Sanskrit and Hindi medium school children. Culture & Psychology, 15(3), 386–408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mishra, R. C., & Vajpayee, A. (2008). Sanskrit schools in India. In P. R. Dasen & A. Akkari (Eds.), Educational theories and practices from the majority world (pp. 245–267). New Delhi: SAGE Publications.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Newcombe, N. S., & Huttenlocher, J. (2000). Making space: The development of spatial representation and reasoning. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  31. Niraula, S., & Mishra, R. C. (2001). Spatial orientation of the Newar children in Nepal. Social Science International, 17(1), 38–48.Google Scholar
  32. Niraula, S., Mishra, R. C., & Dasen, P. R. (2004). Linguistic relativity and spatial concept development in Nepal. Psychology and Developing Societies, 17(1), 99–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Pederson, E. (1995). Language as context, language as means: Spatial cognition and habitual language use. Cognitive Linguistics, 6(1), 33–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pederson, E., Danziger, E., Wilkins, D., Levinson, S., Kita, S., & Senft, G. (1998). Semantic typology and spatial conceptualization. Language, 74(3), 557–589.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Piaget, J., & Inhelder, B. (1956). The child’s conception of space. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  36. Rogoff, B. (1981). Schooling and development of cognitive skills. In H. C. Triandis & A. Heron (Eds.), Handbook of cross-cultural psychology (Vol. 4, pp. 233–294). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  37. Senft, G. (2001). Frames of spatial reference in Kilivila. Studies in Language, 25(3), 521–555.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Spencer, C., & Darvizeh, Z. (1983). Young children’s place descriptions, maps and route findings: A comparison of nursery school children in Iran and Britain. International Journal of Early Childhood, 15(1), 26–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Taylor, H. A., & Tversky, B. (1996). Perspective in spatial description. Journal of Memory and Language, 35(4), 371–391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Tulviste, P. (1991). The cultural historical development of verbal thinking. New York: Nova Science.Google Scholar
  41. Vajpayee, A., Dasen, P. R., & Mishra, R. C. (2008). Spatial encoding: A comparison of Sanskrit- and Hindi-medium schools. In N. Srinivasan, A. K. Gupta, & J. Pandey (Eds.), Advances in cognitive science (pp. 255–265). New Delhi: SAGE Publications.Google Scholar
  42. Wassmann, J., & Dasen, P. R. (1998). Balinese spatial orientation: Some empirical evidence for moderate linguistic relativity. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Incorporating Man, 4(4), 689–711.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyBanaras Hindu UniversityVaranasiIndia
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyHarishchandra P.G. CollegeVaranasiIndia

Personalised recommendations