Metaphors are key to how children conceptualise the world around them
and how they engage socially and educationally. This study investigated
metaphor comprehension in typically developing Arabic-speaking
children aged 3;01-6;07. Eighty-seven children were administered a
newly developed task containing 20 narrated stories and were asked to
point at pictures that best illustrated the metaphoric expression. The
results were examined through a mixed ANCOVA, testing the effects of
chronological age, metaphor type (primary, perceptual) and metaphor
conventionality (conventional, novel) on metaphor comprehension.
Children could understand some metaphors just after their third
birthday, and their comprehension increased with age. Children’s
performance was somewhat better on primary than perceptual, and
much better on conventional than novel metaphors. These findings are
discussed in light of conceptual metaphor theory (Lakoff & Johnson,
2008) and structure mapping theory (Gentner & Markman, 1997),
confirming differences in the acquisition of different metaphor types.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jan 2024


  • metaphor
  • comprehension
  • primary
  • conventional
  • novel


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