The use of the past tense in games of pretend

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    This note is concerned with the way in which children use tense to distinguish between different realities in games of pretend. I shall attempt to relate this phenomenon to a general feature of English grammar and suggest a social interpretation of this feature as well. My data are based on observation of my daughter and her friends engaged in pretend-games over the past five years. At the time of writing she is ten, and I noted the linguistic feature under discussion shortly after she had gone to school. I have also noted the phenomenon in children of about four (i.e. of pre-school age) who regularly play with older children. The feature is quite simple: the simple past tense form is used for giving ‘stage directions’ for a game of pretend (usually in association with dressing up) rather than the general ('present') tense. The following gives an example of this usage in the context of a game.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)365-369
    Number of pages5
    JournalJournal of Child Language
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1979

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