Proverb Comprehension in Youth: The Role of Concreteness and Familiarity This study examined factors that were posited to play an important role in the development of proverb comprehension in school-age children and adolescents, namely, the concreteness and the familiarity of the expressions. Normally achieving students enrolled in Grades 5, 8, and 11 (n = 180) were administered a written forced-choice ... Research Article
Research Article  |   February 01, 1996
Proverb Comprehension in Youth: The Role of Concreteness and Familiarity
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Marilyn A. Nippold
    University of Oregon Eugene
  • Faridah Serajul Haq
    University of Oregon Eugene
  • Contact author: Marilyn A. Nippold, PhD, Communication Disorders and Sciences, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403. E-mail: nippold@oregon.uoregon.edu
Article Information
Development / School-Based Settings / Professional Issues & Training / Normal Language Processing / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   February 01, 1996
Proverb Comprehension in Youth: The Role of Concreteness and Familiarity
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, February 1996, Vol. 39, 166-176. doi:10.1044/jshr.3901.166
History: Received July 22, 1994 , Accepted May 10, 1995
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, February 1996, Vol. 39, 166-176. doi:10.1044/jshr.3901.166
History: Received July 22, 1994; Accepted May 10, 1995

This study examined factors that were posited to play an important role in the development of proverb comprehension in school-age children and adolescents, namely, the concreteness and the familiarity of the expressions. Normally achieving students enrolled in Grades 5, 8, and 11 (n = 180) were administered a written forced-choice task that contained eight instances of four different types of proverbs: concrete-familiar (“A rolling stone gathers no moss”); concrete-unfamiliar (“A caged bird longs for the clouds”); abstract-familiar (“Two wrongs don’t make a right”); and abstract-unfamiliar (“Of idleness comes no goodness”). Performance on the task steadily improved as a function of increasing grade level and, as predicted, the expressions proved to be differentially challenging: Concrete proverbs were easier to understand than abstract proverbs, and familiar proverbs were easier to understand than unfamiliar proverbs. The results concerning concreteness support the “metasemantic” hypothesis, the view that comprehension develops through active analysis of the words contained in proverbs. The results concerning familiarity support the “language experience” hypothesis, the view that comprehension develops through meaningful exposure to proverbs.

Acknowledgments
The authors express their appreciation to the children, adolescents, and adults who participated as subjects in this research project, and to the public school personnel who granted permission to conduct the study, helped to locate subjects, and assisted in scheduling the testing. Appreciation is also expressed to Kristin Jensen, Trish Leighton, and Ellen Leinbach for assisting with data collection, and to the graduate students who helped write problems for the Proverb Comprehension Task.
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