Skip to main content
×
Home
    • Aa
    • Aa

The moustache sits down first”: on the acquisition of metonymy*

  • INGRID L. FALKUM (a1), MARTA RECASENS (a2) and EVE V. CLARK (a2)
Abstract
Abstract

This study investigates preschoolers’ ability to understand and produce novel metonyms. We gave forty-seven children (aged 2;9–5;9) and twenty-seven adults one comprehension task and two elicitation tasks. The first elicitation task investigated their ability to use metonyms as referential shorthands, and the second their willingness to name animates metonymically on the basis of a salient property. Although children were outperformed by adults, even three-year-olds could understand and produce metonyms in certain circumstances. Our results suggest that young children may find it easier to produce a metonym than a more elaborate referential description in certain contexts, and that metonymy may serve as a useful strategy in referring to entities that lack a conventional label. However, metonymy comprehension appeared to decrease with age, with older children tending to choose literal interpretations of some metonyms. This could be a result of growing metalinguistic awareness, which leads children to overemphasize literal meanings.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Ingrid L. Falkum, Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature, University of Oslo, PO Box 1020 Blindern, N-0315 Oslo, Norway. e-mail: i.l.falkum@ifikk.uio.no
Footnotes
Hide All
[*]

This research was supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from the Research Council of Norway (project no. 205513), awarded to the first author, and by a Beatriu de Pinós postdoctoral fellowship from Generalitat de Catalunya (2010 BP-A 00149), awarded to the second author. We would like to thank the children and staff (especially Chia-wa Yeh and Jennifer Winters) at Bing Nursery School, Stanford; this research would not have been possible without them. We thank Megan O'Neil and Marisa Casillas for all help with the data collection. Also special thanks to Petter Laake and Ewart Thomas for statistical advice, and to Robyn Carston, Eduard Hovy, Georg Kjøll, Brian MacWhinney, Agustín Vicente, and in particular Deirdre Wilson for insightful comments and discussion on earlier drafts. We would also like to thank two anonymous reviewers whose helpful comments on previous drafts substantially improved the paper. Marta Recasens is currently at Google Inc.

Footnotes
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

L. Acredolo & S. Goodwyn (1988). Symbolic gesturing in normal infants. Child Development 59, 450–66.

N. Akhtar , M. Carpenter & M. Tomasello (1996). The role of discourse novelty in early word learning. Child Development 67, 635–45.

I. Arnon & N. Snider (2010). More than words: frequency effects for multi-word phrases. Journal of Memory and Language 62(1), 6782.

R. M. Billow (1975). A cognitive developmental study of metaphor comprehension. Developmental Psychology 11(4), 415–23.

M. Bowerman (1982). Starting to talk worse: clues to language acquisition from children's late speech errors. In R. Stavy & S. Strauss (eds), U-shaped behavioural growth, 101–45. New York: Academic Press.

E. W. Bushnell & M. P. Maratsos (1984). ‘Spooning’ and ‘basketing’: children's dealing with accidental gaps in the lexicon. Child Development 55, 893902.

E. V. Clark (1997). Conceptual perspective and lexical choice in acquisition. Cognition 64, 137.

E. V. Clark & H. H. Clark (1979). When nouns surface as verbs. Language 55(4), 767811.

E. V. Clark , S. A. Gelman & N. M. Lane (1985). Compound nouns and category structure in young children. Child Development 56(1), 8494.

A. Copestake & T. Briscoe (1995). Semi-productive polysemy and sense extension. Journal of Semantics 12(1), 1567.

W. R. Crozier & P. S. Dimmock (1999). Name-calling and nicknames in a sample of primary school children. British Journal of Educational Psychology 69(4), 505–16.

M. Doherty & J. Perner (1998). Metalinguistic awareness and theory of mind: Just two words for the same thing? Cognitive Development 13(3), 279305.

J. L. Fleiss (1971). Measuring nominal scale agreement among many raters. Psychological Bulletin 76(5), 378–82.

S. Frisson & M. J. Pickering (2007). The processing of familiar and novel senses of a word: why reading Dickens is easy but reading Needham can be hard. Language and Cognitive Processes 22(4), 595613.

G. M. Gottfried (1997). Using metaphors as modifiers: children's production of metaphoric compounds. Journal of Child Language 24, 567601.

J. Huttenlocher & P. Smiley (1987). Early word meanings: the case of object names. Cognitive Psychology 19, 6389.

T. F. Jaeger (2008). Categorical data analysis: away from ANOVAs (transformation or not) and towards logit mixed models. Journal of Memory and Language 59, 434–46.

F. C. Keil (1986). Conceptual domains and the acquisition of metaphor. Cognitive Development 1, 7396.

A. Kendon (2004). Gesture: visible action as utterance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

J. R. Landis & G. G. Koch (1977). The measurement of observer agreement for categorical data. Biometrics 33, 159–74.

M. C. Levorato & C. Cacciari (2002). The creation of new figurative expressions: psycholinguistic evidence in Italian children, adolescents and adults. Journal of Child Language 29, 127–50.

B. Nerlich & D. D. Clarke (2001). Serial metonymy: a study of reference-based polysemisation. Journal of Historical Pragmatics 2(2), 245–72.

B. Nerlich , D. D. Clarke & Z. Todd (1999). ‘Mummy, I like being a sandwich.’ Metonymy in language acquisition. In K. Panther & G. Radden (eds), Metonymy in language and thought, 361–83. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

I. Noveck (2001). When children are more logical than adults: experimental investigations of scalar implicature. Cognition 78, 165–88.

G. Nunberg (1979). The non-uniqueness of semantic solutions: polysemy. Linguistics and Philosophy 3(2), 143–84.

A. Papafragou (1996). On metonymy. Lingua 99, 169–95.

A. Papafragou & J. Musolino (2003). Scalar implicatures: experiments at the semantics–pragmatics interface. Cognition 86, 253–82.

H. Rabagliati , G. F. Marcus & L. Pylkkänen (2010). Shifting senses in lexical semantic development. Cognition 117, 1737.

G. Radden & Z. Kövecses (1999). Towards a theory of metonymy. In K.-U. Panther & G. Radden (eds), Metonymy in language and thought, 1759. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing.

E. Rosch , C. Mervis , W. D. Gray , D. M. Johnson & P. Boyes-Braem (1976). Basic objects in natural categories. Cognitive Psychology 8, 382439.

G. Rundblad & D. Annaz (2010). Development of metaphor and metonymy comprehension: receptive vocabulary and conceptual knowledge. British Journal of Developmental Psychology 28, 547–63.

L. Stites & Ş. Özçalışkan (2013). Developmental changes in children's comprehension and explanation of spatial metaphors for time. Journal of Child Language 40, 1123–37.

W. E. Tunmer , C. Pratt & M. L. Herriman (eds) (1984). Metalinguistic awareness in children. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

J. Van Herwegen , D. Dimitriou & G. Rundblad (2013). Development of novel metaphor and metonymy comprehension in typically developing children and Williams syndrome. Research in Developmental Disabilities 34(4), 1300–11.

S. Vosniadou (1987). Children and metaphors. Child Development 58(3), 870–85.

S. Vosniadou & A. Orthony (1983). The emergence of the literal–metaphorical–anomalous distinction in young children. Child Development 54, 154–61.

D. Wilson & D. Sperber (2012). Meaning and relevance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

E. Winner , M. Engel & H. Gardner (1980). Misunderstanding metaphor: What's the problem. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 30, 2232.

E. Winner , A. K. Rosenstiel & H. Gardner (1976). The development of metaphoric understanding. Developmental Psychology 12(4), 289–97.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Child Language
  • ISSN: 0305-0009
  • EISSN: 1469-7602
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-child-language
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 10
Total number of PDF views: 82 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 434 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd September 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.