Judgments of Idiom Familiarity and Transparency A Comparison of Children and Adolescents Research Note
Research Note  |   April 01, 2002
Judgments of Idiom Familiarity and Transparency
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Marilyn A. Nippold, PhD
    University of Oregon Eugene
  • Catherine L. Taylor
    Curtin University of Technology Perth, Western Australia
  • Contact author: Marilyn A. Nippold, PhD, Communication Disorders and Sciences, College of Education, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403. E-mail: nippold@oregon.uoregon.edu
Article Information
Development / School-Based Settings / Research Issues, Methods & Evidence-Based Practice / Normal Language Processing / Language / Research Note
Research Note   |   April 01, 2002
Judgments of Idiom Familiarity and Transparency
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 2002, Vol. 45, 384-391. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2002/030)
History: Received June 18, 2001 , Accepted December 17, 2001
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 2002, Vol. 45, 384-391. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2002/030)
History: Received June 18, 2001; Accepted December 17, 2001
Web of Science® Times Cited: 45

Idioms (e.g., go by the book, keep a straight face) are figurative expressions that frequently occur in the English language. Given the pervasiveness of these expressions, it is important that young people can understand their meanings. Developmental studies have shown that idioms that are higher in familiarity and transparency (e.g., blow off some steam) are generally easier for children and adolescents to understand than those that are less familiar and more opaque (e.g., pull up one's socks). In those studies, judgments of idiom familiarity and transparency were based on the perceptions of individuals who were older than the study participants. In the present study, 11-year-old children (n=50) and 16-year-old adolescents (n=50) were asked to judge the familiarity and transparency of a set of 20 idioms. Their comprehension of the same expressions was also examined. The results indicated that the children were less familiar with the idioms and had greater difficulty comprehending them than did the adolescents. However, the children's transparency judgments did not differ from those of the adolescents. For the children, the easiest idioms were also more familiar and transparent than the most difficult expressions. For the adolescents, the easiest idioms were more transparent than the most difficult ones, but the two types did not differ in familiarity. Suggestions are offered for conducting future studies of the development of idiom understanding in youth.

Acknowledgments
This project was funded by a Curtin University of Technology New Researcher's grant, which was awarded to C. L. Taylor and M. A. Nippold. The authors express sincere appreciation to the students who participated in the project and to the teachers and school administrators who granted permission for the testing to take place and helped to schedule the sessions.
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