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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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Author's address: University of Aarhus, Department of English, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

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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