Children’s comprehension of time in audiovisual narratives: a multimodal discourse and empirical approach

Chiao-I Tseng*, Emilia Djonov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Children’s understanding of time is essential for success in literacy, history and science education, and narrative is often adopted as a cross-curricular vehicle for promoting its development. This study proposes a social-semiotic, multimodal framework for analysing the co-patterning of temporal relations in audiovisual narratives and its effect on children’s comprehension. Moving beyond the focus on individual temporal devices in previous research, our framework combines three systems of time features in audiovisual narratives - event time, sequencing and frequency. To illustrate the framework’s value for investigating the interaction and combined effects of different temporal devices in narratives, we present an exploratory study in which 28 children aged 7–10 years watched and interpreted temporally-complex segments from two Disney animations. The findings support our argument that the co-patterning of temporal features plays a key role in children’s comprehension of audiovisual narratives and have implications for research on multimodality and education.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101144
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalLinguistics and Education
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • multimodality
  • discourse analysis
  • children's film
  • social semiotics
  • narrative comprehension
  • time


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