Talking About the Non-Literal: Internal States and Explanations in Child-Constructed Narratives

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Non-literal language most often permeates interesting and informative narratives. These are the non-perceptible, inferential aspects of a story, such as the explanation of events, the attribution of internal, particularly mental, states to the characters of the story, or the evaluation of events by the participants and/or the narrator. The main aim of this paper is to examine whether non-literal uses can be promoted in 7-year-old French-speaking children’s narratives through the use of a short conversational intervention (SCI) which focuses the children’s attention on the causes of events. The results show that, after the SCI, the expression of non-literal aspects, even higher-order ones, may make their appearance or significantly increase in children’s stories. The reasons for the effectiveness of the SCI in the promotion of non-literal uses of language and narrative skills in general, as well as the importance of using the SCI as an evaluative instrument, are discussed.

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