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Children and situation models of multiple events.

ABSTRACT

The present study demonstrates that children experience difficulties reaching the correct situation model of multiple events described in temporal sentences if the sentences encode language-external events in reverse chronological order. Importantly, the timing of the cue of how to organize these events is crucial: When temporal subordinate conjunctions (before/after) or converb constructions that carry information of how to organize the events were given sentence-medially, children experienced severe difficulties in arriving at the correct interpretation of event order. When this information was provided sentence-initially, children were better able to arrive at the correct situation model, even if it required them to decode the linguistic information reversely with respect to the actual language external events. This indicates that children even aged 8-12 still experience difficulties in arriving at the correct interpretation of the event structure, if the cue of how to order the events is not given immediately when they start building the representation of the situation. This suggests that children's difficulties in comprehending sequential temporal events are caused by their inability to revise the representation of the current event structure at the level of the situation model.