Effects of Context on Children's Metaphor Comprehension

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Conference Proceeding

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Communication Studies


This study replicates Siltanen's (1986) investigation of four developmental stages of metaphor comprehension and tests the effects of two levels of context on children's ability to comprehend metaphors. A total of 159 subjects ranging in age from 6 through 12 years were asked to provide an open-ended response to 16 test metaphors which varied in difficulty. The metaphors were presented either with a 60- to 100-word-story context or as simple sentences. Metaphor comprehension was operationalized as type and number of grounds used in constructing conjunctive, disjunctive, and/or relational categories when interpreting a metaphor. Children's responses were coded to indicate type of comprehension: perceptually grounded, conceptually grounded, and combined perceptually and conceptually grounded comprehension. Findings replicated Siltanen's results concerning age differences and cognitive elaboration of comprehension, and supported the four-stages theory of metaphor comprehension. However, contrary to other research, context did not significantly affect metaphor comprehension. Results are discussed in terms of metaphor difficulty, type of context, and power of the manipulation. (Author/RH)

Publication Title

Southern Speech Communication Convention

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