Preverbal Infants' Attention to Manner and Path: Foundations for Learning Relational Terms


  • This research was part of the first author's dissertation at the University of Delaware, and was funded by NSF Grants SBR9601306 and SBR9615391 to the fourth and fifth authors. The writing of this article was also supported by NIH NRSA Training Grant T32 HD007109 to Developmental Psychology at the University of Michigan, a Chinese Academy of Sciences Research Fellowship for International Young Researchers to the first author, and NSF HBCU-RISE Award HRD 0833148 to Leonard Davis. We thank everyone at the University of Delaware's Infant Language Project and Temple University's Infant Lab for their invaluable contributions. We offer our deepest appreciation to all of the parents and infants who participated in the project.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Rachel Pulverman, Department of Psychology, Delaware State University, 1200 North DuPont Highway, Dover, DE 19901. Electronic mail may be sent to


In the world, the manners and paths of motion events take place together, but in language, these features are expressed separately. How do infants learn to process motion events in linguistically appropriate ways? Forty-six English-learning 7- to 9-month-olds were habituated to a motion event in which a character performed both a manner and a path, and then tested on events that changed the manner, path, both, or neither. Infants detected each type of change, but only the girls showed evidence of processing manner and path as independent features. This gender difference provides clues about the universal development of manner and path concepts from more basic perceptual skills. Results have implications for how representations of linguistically relevant semantic elements develop conceptually.