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Psicologia: Reflexão e Crítica

Print version ISSN 0102-7972On-line version ISSN 1678-7153


DIAS, Maria da Graça Bompastor Borges  and  VANDERLEI, Renata Bahia. The ability to differenciate if from when. Psicol. Reflex. Crit. [online]. 1999, vol.12, n.1, pp.195-208. ISSN 0102-7972.

Bowerman (1979) and Reilly (1986) argued that constructions using the conditional if, albeit being similar morphologically and syntactically to sentences that involve, for example, and, when and because, and also having similar meanings, are the last to appear in children’s productions. If is used to express situations whose occurence is possible but unsure; whereas when is used to express events that present a higher grade of certainty. We tried to identify in what age children are able to differenciate the meaning of if and when in cases where they are synonyms and in case where they cannot be superposed. Three and 5 year-old children were presented different classes of conditional sentences (predictive, present, and past) which started with if and when. Children identified among three pictures which one represented what had been read. Three year-olds were able to identify sentences in which the two are synonyms, but when they are not (predictive and past), children’s performance in both age groups decline, mainly with the sentences involving if. One of the explanations is that the temporal when usually expresses affirmations about events of the real world, whereas the conditional if specifies hypothetical situations that involve abilities which develop later.

Keywords : Conditional if; temporal when; predictive sentences; hypothetical situations.

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