Mental state talk by Danish preschool children


  • Ane Knüppel University of Aalborg
  • Rikke Steensgaard University of Copenhagen
  • Kristine Jensen de López University of Aalborg



acquisition, mental state talk, Danish, semantics, language about desire, feeling and cognition


Sixteen 4 to 6-year-old Danish children were video-recorded, while interacting spontaneously with their family in their homes. The mental state talk of the children was identified and analysed with respect to three mental domains: desire, feeling and cognition, and was compared to data from a similar study carried out with Canadian families (Jenkins et al., 2003). Our results suggest some cross-cultural differences in children’s mental state talk. First, Danish children produce a larger variation of mental state talk words than Canadian children do, and second, the distribution of mental state talk across the three domains differed for the two language groups. Semantic variation between Danish and English was identified in the study, which may partly explain the findings. Furthermore we present a usage-based approach to the investigation of children’s development of psychological categories in language as well as cross-linguistically.