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Korean and German children’s acquisition of an ‚internal state language’ and their development of social cognition and emotion concepts

Project No. G 106

Cora Kim

  • In which steps do children between 3 and 6 years of age develop a linguistic repertoire for the expression and communication of “inner states”, such as feelings, desires and thoughts (i.e. an ”Internal State Language")?
  • How do they develop a conceptual grasp of such states in themselves and others during the same period?
  • How do language acquisition and conceptual development in this domain relate to each other?
  • Do these developmental processes follow a universal sequence or do they exhibit cultural or individual differences?

My dissertation project is a cross-linguistic, cross-cultural study investigating the “Internal State Language” (ISL), “theory of mind”, and emotion concepts of 60 children in both South Korea and Germany and analyzing them for a) developmental steps and stages over the age groups, b) differences and commonalities between the linguistic/cultural groups and c) correlations between linguistic and psychological measures.

The aim of the study is to illustrate firstly the developmental steps children take as they tap the realm of mind and emotion linguistically and conceptually; then the role of language for the growing conceptual understanding of inner states; and finally the scope of the influence of cultural differences on children’s development.

My project has its background in developmental research in linguistics and psychology that tries to shed light on the roles that language and culture play for human cognition and the conceptualization of experience, thereby adding the previously neglected domain of mind and emotion to its focus on physical-perceptual domains such as space, time, or movement.




Prof. Dr. Gisela Klann-Delius

Prof. Dr. Katja Liebal