Alternate Author Name(s)

Robert Arthur Rubinstein

Document Type


Date of Award



Cognition and culture, Belize, Semantics

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

H. Stephen Straight

Second Advisor

Neville Dyson-Hudon

Third Advisor

Charles D. Laughlin, Jr.


This work describes the results of a ten month long research program on the relationship between nonverbal cognitive development and the acquisition of semantic knowledge conducted in Corozal Town, Belize. Historical and ethnographic accounts of the area precede this presentation. A research sample of children between the ages of 5 and 17 (N= 90) was selected from among Spanish and Belizean Creole speaking children. This sample was comprised of three subsamples; two subsamples were tested in their L1 (Spanish or Belizean Creole) and the third was tested in the children’s L2 (Standard English). The Feldman Colored Blocks Test was used to assess level of nonverbal cognitive development. The Semantic Strategies Test, developed for this research, was used to assess complexity of semantic organization. Analysis showed that there was no significant difference in relation to the development of nonverbal cognitive ability among the three subsamples. However, children tested in L2 showed significantly less complexity in their organization of semantic knowledge than did those tested in L1. It is suggested that this data patterning can best be accounted for by a model of semantic development which considers the process one of structural elaboration. Theoretical and practical implications of this view are discussed.

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