Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Speech-Language Pathology, MS

First Advisor

D'Jaris Coles-White

Second Advisor

Tammy Shilling

Third Advisor

Heather Ferguson



There is an extensive amount of research on theory of mind, which is the ability to attribute mental states (e.g., beliefs, intents, desires, knowledge, etc.) to oneself and others and to comprehend that others have beliefs, desires, intentions and perspectives that may be different from one’s own. Some researchers have investigated the potential prerequisites or developmental milestones that may be required in order for a theory of mind to be developed in young children. Some researchers have concluded that certain factors play a role in theory of mind development. These factors include environmental, cognitive and linguistic components. However, in the area of linguistics few studies have been able to find a direct link to how language interconnects with theory of mind acquisition. More so, little research has been conducted on grammatical negation, also called syntactic negation and a possible link to theory of mind development. This thesis attempts to add to the body of research on how theory of mind and negation are connected.


The participants in this study were comprised of 22, monolingual, English speaking children 3 to 7 years of age who presented with typically developing language skills. These participants were recruited from both public and private schools located in Southwest Michigan. Recruitment strategies included, sending Andrews University Institutional Review Board approved consent forms to the parents of children who were enrolled in Preschool through 1st grade in the Southwest Michigan locations mentioned above. The participants were randomly selected from those consent forms that were returned from parents who gave signed consent to allow their children to participate. The Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, 4th Edition (PPVT-IV) was given to all participants. The PPVT-IV is a standardized test of receptive vocabulary knowledge that is highly correlated with other standardized tests of language and cognitive skills. All participants were required to achieve a standard score of 85 or above in order to satisfy inclusionary criteria for this study. Two participants were excluded from the study because they did not meet the inclusionary criteria for participation.


The results yielded no significant statistical evidence between the negation tasks and theory of mind tasks. However, negation was shown to develop on a developmental trajectory with older children performing better than their younger counterparts on the sentence picture verification tasks used to investigate syntactic negation.


Implication for these findings propose that different kinds of negation should be analyzed in regards to theory of mind acquisition. For further study, language impaired children and a specific types of negation should be investigated over a larger sample size of children.

Subject Area

English language--Negatives; Philosophy of mind; Negation (Logic)

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License.