Who is crossing where? Infants' discrimination of figures and grounds in events

Tilbe Göksun, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, Mutsumi Imai, Haruka Konishi, Hiroyuki Okada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


To learn relational terms such as verbs and prepositions, children must first dissect and process dynamic event components. This paper investigates the way in which 8- to 14-month-old English-reared infants notice the event components, figure (i.e., the moving entity) and ground (i.e., stationary setting), in both dynamic (Experiment 1) and static representations of events (Experiment 2) for categorical ground distinctions expressed in Japanese, but not in English. We then compare both 14- and 19-month-old English- and Japanese-reared infants' processing of grounds to understand how language learning interacts with the conceptualization of these constructs (Experiment 3). Results suggest that (1) infants distinguish between figures and grounds in events; (2) they do so differently for static vs. dynamic displays; (3) early in the second year, children from diverse language environments form nonnative - perhaps universal - event categories; and (4) these event categories shift over time as children have more exposure to their native tongue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)176-195
Number of pages20
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Nov


  • Cross-language comparison
  • Event perception
  • Figure and ground
  • Prelinguistic constructs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Who is crossing where? Infants' discrimination of figures and grounds in events'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this