Linguistic factors in children's understanding of idioms

  title={Linguistic factors in children's understanding of idioms},
  author={Richard W. Gibbs},
  journal={Journal of Child Language},
  pages={569 - 586}
  • R. W. Gibbs
  • Published 1 October 1987
  • Education, Psychology, Linguistics
  • Journal of Child Language
ABSTRACT This study examined the effect of two linguistic factors on children's understanding of idioms. Kindergarten, first, third and fourth graders listened to idiomatic expressions either alone or at the end of short story contexts. Their task was to explain verbally the intended meanings of these idioms and then to choose the correct idiomatic interpretations of these phrases. The results showed that in the presence of supporting context younger children (kindergarten and first graders… 

Semantic analyzability in children's understanding of idioms.

  • R. Gibbs
  • Psychology
    Journal of speech and hearing research
  • 1991
It is demonstrated that young children better understand idiomatic phrases whose individual parts independently contribute to their overall figurative meanings.


From a psychological point of view, this study looks at children's and adult’s comprehension of idiomatic expressions, and most particularly at the underlying cognitive processes needed for

How children understand idioms in discourse

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.

“Tu es dans la lune”: Understanding idioms in French-speaking children and adults

From a psychological point of view, this study looks at children’s and adult’s comprehension of idiomatic expressions, and most particularly at the underlying cognitive processes needed for

The Effect of Semantic Analyzability of Idioms in Metalinguistic Tasks

Fifth graders' and adults' abilities to assign an interpretation and explain and motivate an idiom' s meaning were investigated with idioms characterized by different degrees of semantic

Comprehension of Idioms by Jordanian Arabic-Speaking Children.

The results show that older children are better at comprehending the idiomatic meanings of idioms than younger children, and transparent idioms are understood earlier and easier than opaque ones.

Understanding of Idiomatic Expressions in Context in Skilled and Less Skilled Comprehenders: Online Processing and Interpretation

ABSTRACT This article reports a study in which good and poor comprehenders (in 2 age groups: 8- and 10-year-olds) read short passages containing phrases that could be interpreted as idiomatic or not,

The role of linguistic context in children’s interpretation and acquisition of Cicewa idiomatic expressions: A systemic functional linguistics approach

Abstract Research findings have shown that linguistic context helps young children to infer the figurative meaning of an idiom and learn the meaning. In this study, the role of linguistic context in



On comprehending idioms: Do children get the picture?

Processing idioms with multiple meanings

Three experiments are presented that examine understanding of idioms with one or more meaning. The results of Experiment 1 showed that subjects took longer to read and make paraphrase judgments for

Sources of difficulty in the young child's understanding of metaphorical language.

VOSNIADOU, STELLA; ORTONY, ANDREW; REYNOLDS, RALPH E,; and WILSON, PAUL T. Sources of Difficuity in the Young Child's Understanding of Metaphorical Language. CHILD DEVELOPMENT, 1984, 55, 1588-1606. 3

Some Issues in the Measurement of Children's Comprehension of Metaphorical Language. Technical Report No. 172.

The data were interpreted as supporting the view that measures of metaphor comprehension often confound general language performance variables with metaphoric ability.

Spilling the beans on understanding and memory for idioms in conversation

  • R. Gibbs
  • Psychology
    Memory & cognition
  • 1980
It is argued that the traditional distinction between literal and metaphoric language is better characterized as a continuum between conventional and unconventional utterances and that subjects understanding unconventional uses of idioms tend to analyze the idiomatic meaning of these expressions before deriving the literal, unconventional interpretation.

Skating on thin ice: Literal meaning and understanding idioms in conversation∗

The question of whether people always analyze the literal meanings of idiomatic expressions, such as You can let the cat out of the bag, (meaning “You can reveal the secret”) was examined in two experiments and indicated that subjects were primed on the nonliteral targets when they read idiomatic expression, but were not primed onThe literal targets.

The Development of Idiomatic Meaning in Children

This study examined the development of idiomatic expression. Sixty subjects were presented with a series of drawings corresponding to sentences exhibiting dual semantic representation (i.e., a

The Emergence of the Literal-Metaphorical-Anomalous Distinction in Young Children.

VOSNIADOU, STELLA, and ORTONY, ANDREW. The Emergence of the Literal-Metaphorical-Anomalous Distinction in Young Children. CHILD DEVELOPMENT, 1983, 54, 154-161. Children's ability to distinguish among

Proverbial Understanding in a Pictorial Context

HONECK, RICHARD P.; SOWRY, BRENDA M.; and VOEGTLE, KATHERINE. Proverbial Understanding in a Pictorial Context. CHILD DEVELOPMENT, 1978, 49, 327-331. A review of the literature suggests that children