Peculiarities in Understanding of Indirect Meaning of Proverbs and Idioms by Children of Pre-School Age

Keywords: indirect meaning of words, proverbs, idioms, perception, understanding, children of pre-school age


The study reveales psycholinguistic peculiarities of understanding of indirect meaning of the proverbs and idioms of Ukrainian speaking pre-school children. The experiment took place on the basis of pre-school education establishments of Ukraine. The participation number is 378 children at the age of 5 years (till 5.5 years).

The used psycholinguistic methods are: а) «evaluation of understanding of the indirect metaphors meaning» (Vygotskyi, 2000); b) «evaluation of proverbs understanding» (Luriia, 1998). The other used psycholinguistic methods are: а) «Proverbs understanding» (Luriia, 1998), adopted for the diagnoses of metaphoric understanding of idioms meaning by children; b) «The interpretation choice of one of the given variants of meanings» (Baskakova & Glukhov, 2008; Eliseeva, Gutsc & Marini, 2017); c) selection of one of several possible paraphrases (Winner, Rosenstiel & Gardner, 1976; Vosniadou & Ortony, 1983). Children were proposed to express themselves in order to find out how they understand given proverbs and idioms. If they had difficulties in meaning explication, so they were proposed some variants of proverbs and idioms interpretations, among which the first was correct (with indirect meaning) and the second with the direct meaning and the third with occasional associative meaning.

The experiment proved such results: there are children with obvious intuitive language ability to feel the general meaning of proverbs and idioms. The part of children of the age of five years is able to verbalize the indirect proverb meaning (4,2%) and idioms meaning (7,4%). In the situation with one variant of meaning among some paraphrases 16,4% of children chose the correct proverb meaning, 20,4% of children chose the correct idiom meaning. More difficult for children’s understanding are proverbs, than idioms. It could be explained in the way, that idiomatic expressions are one whole and one nomination that a child often interprets in daily life from adults in some specific life situations. That is why he or she uses more quickly the heard word complex in a new association chain, abstracting from the direct meaning of idiomatic words. The proverb understanding is seen by child as more complex cognitive task, which foresees decipherment of the common thought or conclusion, understanding its meaning (implication). That is why the proverbs cause more problems among children than idioms.


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Kalmykova, L., Kharchenko, N., & МysаnІ. (2018). Peculiarities in Understanding of Indirect Meaning of Proverbs and Idioms by Children of Pre-School Age. PSYCHOLINGUISTICS, 24(1), 149-182.