Definitory competence in typical and atypical populations

This research area analyzes the development of definitional competence in several aspects: cognitive (as, for example, the underlying process of conceptual change, the type of format used for representing conceptual information), linguistic (in particular morpho-syntactic skills, the role of bilingualism, etc.) and metalinguistic (comprehension of language propreties, origin and of definitions themselves). The study of these aspects involves typical as well as atypical populations (genetic syndromes, autistic syndrome,language and learning impairments, etc.).

Main results to date

Investigations carried out in this area (for a summary see Belacchi and Benelli, 2007) showed improvements in definitional competence as a function of age. Definitions produced by children become progressively similar to normative, Aristotelian definitions (i.e. X is...a Y...that...Z...). Definitional competence depended on different factors such as linguistic abilities ( both lexical and morpho-syntatic), metalinguistic competence, educational level and is related to a more general communicative competence. Regarding atypical development, results obtained in this area are in line with literature on language development in atypical populations. However new and interesting aspects that suggest in-depth examination and might have practical implications were also apparent.

Selected Publications

Belacchi, C., Dispaldro, M., Benelli. (2013) Semantic representation and Verbal Working Memory: The impact of schematic knowledge on word recalling in children at different age levels, BOLLETTINO DI PSICOLOGIA APPLICATA, , 268, 13-28

Belacchi, C. & Benelli, B. (2007). Il significato delle parole: La competenza definitoria nello sviluppo tipico e atipico. Bologna: Il Mulino.

Benelli B., B, Belacchi, C, Gini, G, Lucangeli, D. (2006). To define means to say what you know about things": The development of definitional skills as metalinguistic acquisition.Journal of Child Language. vol. 33, pp. 71-97 ISSN: 0305-0009.