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How children understand idioms in discourse*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 February 2009

Cristina Cacciari
Affiliation:
Università di Bologna
Maria Chiara Levorato
Affiliation:
Università di Verona

Abstract

Some studies have shown that children tend to interpret figurative language literally. Our hypothesis is that they can reach an idiomatic competence if idioms are presented within a rich informational environment allowing children to grasp their figurative sense. First and third graders were presented with narratives biased both to the figurative meaning of idioms (experiment 1) and to the literal meaning (experiment 2) and then given a comprehension task. Experiment 3 was designed to investigate children's production of idioms as compared to the comprehension abilities explored in experiments 1 and 2. Results show that informative contexts can improve children's ability to perceive idiomatic meanings even at the age of seven; and that children are less able to produce idioms than to comprehend them. Generally results emphasize that children seem able to perceive that language can be both figurative and literal.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1989

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Footnotes

*

The present research was supported by a grant from the Ministero della Pubblica Istruzione (1985, fondi 60%) to M. Chiara Levorato.

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