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    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Blything, Liam P. Davies, Robert and Cain, Kate 2015. Young Children's Comprehension of Temporal Relations in Complex Sentences: The Influence of Memory on Performance. Child Development, Vol. 86, Issue. 6, p. 1922.

    McCormack, Teresa 2015. Handbook of Child Psychology and Developmental Science.

    Nieuwland, Mante S. 2015. The Truth Before and After: Brain Potentials Reveal Automatic Activation of Event Knowledge during Sentence Comprehension. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, Vol. 27, Issue. 11, p. 2215.

    Tillman, Katharine A. and Barner, David 2015. Learning the language of time: Children’s acquisition of duration words. Cognitive Psychology, Vol. 78, p. 57.

    Sullivan, Susan Oakhill, Jane Arfé, Barbara and Boureux, Magali 2014. Temporal and Causal Reasoning in Deaf and Hearing Novice Readers. Discourse Processes, Vol. 51, Issue. 5-6, p. 426.

    NOTLEY, ANNA ZHOU, PENG JENSEN, BRITTA and CRAIN, STEPHEN 2012. Children's interpretation of disjunction in the scope of ‘before’: a comparison of English and Mandarin. Journal of Child Language, Vol. 39, Issue. 03, p. 482.

    Busby Grant, Janie and Suddendorf, Thomas 2011. Production of temporal terms by 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old children. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Vol. 26, Issue. 1, p. 87.

    McCormack, Teresa and Hanley, Mary 2011. Children's reasoning about the temporal order of past and future events. Cognitive Development, Vol. 26, Issue. 4, p. 299.

    Busby, Janie. Grant and Suddendorf, Thomas. 2010. Young children's ability to distinguish past and future changes in physical and mental states. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, Vol. 28, Issue. 4, p. 853.

    KERNAN, K. T. 2008. Comprehension of syntactically indicated sequence by Down's syndrome and other mentally retarded adults. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, Vol. 34, Issue. 2, p. 169.

    McColgan, Kerry L. and McCormack, Teresa 2008. Searching and Planning: Young Children’s Reasoning About Past and Future Event Sequences. Child Development, Vol. 79, Issue. 5, p. 1477.

    McCormack, Teresa and Hoerl, Christoph 2008. Temporal Decentering and the Development of Temporal Concepts. Language Learning, Vol. 58, p. 89.

    de Vega, Manuel Rinck, Mike Díaz, José M. and León, Inmaculada 2007. Figure and Ground in Temporal Sentences: The Role of the Adverbs When and While. Discourse Processes, Vol. 43, Issue. 1, p. 1.

    Vega, Manuel de Rinck, Mike Díaz, JosÉ M. and León, Inmaculada 2007. Figure and Ground in Temporal Sentences: The Role of the AdverbsWhenandWhile. Discourse Processes, Vol. 43, Issue. 1, p. 1.

    Suddendorf, Thomas and Busby, Janie 2005. Making decisions with the future in mind: Developmental and comparative identification of mental time travel. Learning and Motivation, Vol. 36, Issue. 2, p. 110.

    Kawashima, Michiko and Prideaux, Gary D. 1992. The function of local cues in the acquisition of Japanese temporal sentences. Language Sciences, Vol. 14, Issue. 1-2, p. 29.

    Buczowska, Ewa and Weist, Richard M. 1991. The Effects of Formal Instruction on the Second-Language Acquisition of Temporal Location*. Language Learning, Vol. 41, Issue. 4, p. 535.

    Weist, Richard M. Wysocka, Hanna and Lyytinen, Paula 1991. A cross-linguistic perspective on the development of temporal systems. Journal of Child Language, Vol. 18, Issue. 01, p. 67.

    Prideaux, Gary D. 1989. Text data as evidence for language processing principles: The grammar of ordered events. Language Sciences, Vol. 11, Issue. 1, p. 27.

    Weist, Richard M. 1989. Time and Human Cognition: A Life-Span Perspective.


Children's comprehension of ‘before’ and ‘after’ reinvestigated*


The present paper is concerned with establishing the relative difficulty involved in the acquisition of the temporal conjunctions before and after. It tries to control the influence on performance of the following variables: contextual support within a sentence (logically/arbitrarily ordered sequences), order of mention, syntactic complexity, task requirement variables, and memory load. In addition, experiments intended to throw light on the cognitive mechanisms underlying an understanding of these conjuctions are described. The concept of time is supposed to be spatial in origin. An understanding of relative time is dependent on ability to decentre and coordinate. Finally, it is suggested that reversible thinking (in a Piagetian sense) is involved in the process of making inverse sentence order agree with event order.

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A. Amidon & P. Carey (1972). Why five-year-olds cannot understand before and after. JVLVB 11. 417–23.

E. V. Clark (1971). On the acquisition of the meaning of before and after. JVLVB 10. 266–75.

C. Taylor (1971). What is involved in a genetic psychology? In T. Mischel (ed), Cognitive psychology and epistemology. New York: Academic Press.

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Journal of Child Language
  • ISSN: 0305-0009
  • EISSN: 1469-7602
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-child-language
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