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Time is frequently expressed with spatial motion, using one of three different metaphor types: moving-time, moving-ego, and sequence-as-position. Previous work shows that children can understand and explain moving-time metaphors by age five (Özçalışkan, 2005). In this study, we focus on all three metaphor types for time, and ask whether metaphor type has an effect on children's metaphor comprehension and explanation abilities. Analysis of the responses of three- to six-year-old children and adults showed that comprehension and explanation of all three metaphor types emerge at an early age. Moreover, children's metaphor comprehension and explanation vary by metaphor type: children perform better in understanding and explaining metaphors that structure time in relation to the observer of time (moving-ego, moving-time) than metaphors that structure time without any relation to the observer of time (sequence-as-position-on-a-path). Our findings suggest that children's bodily experiences might play a role in their developing understanding of the abstract concept of time.


This article was originally published in the Journal of Child Language. Copyright © 2012 Cambridge University Press.

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