Theory-of- mind-related abilities present a long development characterized by both vertical and horizontal décalages. A vertical type of décalage can be seen in children’s abilities to take into account, on a practical level, others’ intentional and mental states and use internal state terms to talk about them before they are able to succeed, at the dominant representational level of functioning, in false belief tasks. Several horizontal décalages can also be observed. It is only after success in FB tasks that children can talk about the mental states of characters in fictional stories. Moreover, ToM-related and other inferential elements are expressed earlier and more frequently in conversationally-constructed than in monologically-produced narratives. This paper examines in particular this type of horizontal décalage by comparing the types of explanations produced by eighty 6- and 7-year-old French-speaking children during a short conversational intervention (SCI) focused on the causes of the story events to those expressed in monological narratives, about the same wordless picture story, produced immediately after or before the SCI. The results confirm that children expressed more ToM-related and other inferential elements during the SCI than in the two monologically-produced narratives. However, the comparison between explanations produced during the SCI and in the immediately following monological narrative also reveals complex relations among understanding, knowing and expressing this knowledge. The reasons and the significance of the horizontal décalages found in the study are discussed.
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.
Explaining Events in Narratives: The Impact of Scaffolding in 4 To 12 Year Old Children
The focus of this article is the manner in which 4 to 12 year old children deal with the "evaluative" component of narratives (Labov & Waletsky, 1967). After spontaneously telling their first version of a story of a misunderstanding between two characters, constructed on the basis of a sequence of five images, children participated in a scaffolding procedure during which they were questioned about the reasons for the events. After this non-intrusive, Piagetian-styled clinical interview, children were asked to recount the story a second time. For children's first narratives, our study confirms earlier results by showing that, before 8-9 years, children rarely mention the epistemic states of the characters. The false belief of one of the characters and its rectification are rarely mentioned before 10-11 years and even at that age by few children. Presenting a story based on a misunderstanding does not facilitate this kind of narration. However, in the narrative produced after scaffolding, 6-7 year old children increase considerably their references to the characters' internal states, and from 8-9 years, the expression of false belief and of its rectification. These results call for multiple evaluations in order to best grasp children's narrative competence.