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Every speech is embellished by metaphoric expression, despite its context, content, and tone. In different fields the application of metaphors may vary, yet still they are applied regardless the situation consciously or unconsciously. In the speech of adults, metaphoric expressions play pivotal role serving as the instruments of persuasion, simplification, and demonstration. There is less evidence that explain the utilization of metaphors by children. Some scholars insist that children use metaphoric expressions unconsciously, while the other researchers imply that they implement the metaphors due to their symbolic perception of the environment. There is certain inconsistency in the results provided by scholars regarding metaphors and their role in children’s speech. In order to fill the gap in the literature, the current research uses a qualitative research design to assess the existing academic literature regarding the subject matter. Specifically, the present study aims to determine if there are differences/similarities in the usage of metaphors in adults and children and present an explanation to the collected data. The research will evaluate the domains of psychological, linguistic, and psycholinguistic knowledge to collect the information. Descriptive and deductive methods will serve as the main tools of data analysis.
Background of the Problem
Figures of speech embellish language, sophisticate it, and provide additional meaning to words. It is possible to compare them with the seasonings of a dish, especially what concerns metaphors. Metaphoric expressions can appeal to a certain subject creating stimuli that may appeal to cultural background or memories; they also can be used as the method of persuasion. It is possible to define metaphor as a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance. Researchers define metaphor by claiming that it is “characterized by the conceptualization of one cognitive domain in terms of components more usually associated with another cognitive domain” (Taylor, 1989, p. 132). Overall, metaphoric expressions can be conceptualized as:
being concerned with a framework of ideas, where these frameworks are specifically designed;
being projective in the way of allowing to organize several layers of meaning of one word by focusing or shifting it to another (Schroots, 1991).
Furthermore, metaphors are usually perceived as representation of language, not the characteristic of thinking process or actions. Due to such reason, metaphors sometimes are considered to be as the figures of speech of secondary importance or appropriate to use only in certain subjects. However, metaphoric expressions are pervasive in speech as well as in thought and action. Of course, abundance of metaphors in language can be appropriate only in certain situations and discussing particular subjects, yet in such field as, for example, political speech it is crucial. For instance, whether it is needed to convince the voters, attract more supporters, or bring round the opponents, the political speech has to contain the metaphors that will be appealing to the listeners.
At the same time, it was noticed that adults and children use metaphoric expressions differently. It was speculated that due specificity of child development, youngsters cannot understand the concept of metaphors. Thus, they either mimic the adults without full comprehension what certain metaphor means or use these expressions unintentionally. Other researchers claim that children utilize metaphors more often than adults, because their perception of this world tends to be more symbolic than rational. At the same time, both camps of scholars agree that there is a difference in usage of metaphoric expressions between children and adults. While a lot of studies point to different directions, it is important to evaluate the body of research dedicated to this subject matter and reveal the facts and arguments presented by the previous studies.
Aims and Objectives
There are few studies exploring differences between children and adult in metaphor analysis from different corpora. After initial analysis of literature in this topic, it was revealed that metaphor analysis in this direction is scarce. There are few inquiries analyzing the metaphor differences in different corpora of two or three samples. In order to target such gap, the present research aims to determine the differences and similarities between children and adults in usage of metaphoric expressions. It is crucial to determine if there are similarities or/and differences between these two groups in order to understand the developmental and linguistic specificities of children’s speech.
The following research questions will be answered during the course of the present inquiry:
What are the developmental differences/similarities between the usage of metaphoric expressions in children and adults?
What linguistic meaning the children and adults implement in metaphors?
How such metaphors appeal to the audience?
For the aims and objectives of the present research, qualitative research design was applied as the main framework. The current investigation aimed to explain the main notion of the issue and the factors triggering it, thus, it is considered that qualitative research design will contribute to such purposes through the effective instruments of data collection and its analysis. Qualitative research design is applied only when the study focuses on the analysis of the core of the problem and explanation of its drivers. The researchers had the goal to analyze the topic of the study from several angles, particularly, the analysis evaluates British and American corpora of metaphors used in the speech of children and adults, the factors designating the application of such metaphors, compares both corpora, and determines the cases when the metaphors are implemented.
Primary data serves as the main fundament of the study which the researcher uses for generating the findings (Bryman & Burgess, 1994). The main purpose of the primary data is to present the basis for creation of the original scientific results that usually involve such tools as the experiment, observation, interview, or analysis of previously written literature. Qualitative design designates the methods selected for collecting and analyzing the data. For the aims of the current research the analysis of literature on metaphoric expressions are selected for gathering the primary information.
Secondary data has the purpose to help the researcher to compare and contrast the primary data with the previously written literature. It was decided to use the analysis of secondary resources, as peer-reviewed articles, books, and relevant newspaper articles in the cases when it is crucial to illustrate a recent and urgent issue.
Analytical and descriptive instruments are implemented for analyzing the data. As it was mentioned earlier, literature review produced primary data, which were analyzed by descriptive techniques and the analytical methods. Both primary and secondary data is generated in the course of the present research were contrasted and compared in order to produce findings. Primary data is gathered with the help of literature review.
Limitations and Delimitations
The limitations observed in this paper caused by the sampling of the present research, which do not affect the quality of the present research and all delimitation measures were applied in order to increase the effectiveness of the study. The research involves a relatively small quantity of the materials, which can be a threat to generalizability of the results. At the same time, the current project involves the design that aims to explain and reveal the differences and similarities in the adults and children.
One of the limitations of the research is in the gap of literature, as a limited number of scholars explored the topic of metaphor differences in this area. However, it is the chance of the current inquiry to set a course for the further exploration of this topic and improvements in this sector. No serious threats to validity, reliability, or credibility of the findings were found.
Within the linguistic framework, metaphor is identified as the notion of one conceptual area from the viewpoint of another conceptual field. For instance, when speaking, people usually perceive life as a journey, arguments as wars, or society as a plant; that is why metaphors have to be viewed not only as the part of language, but also the cognitive process and actions. According to Benoit (2001), “unless the two ideas brought together in metaphor work on each other in some significant way, then apart from being merely ambiguous, metaphor would be either a succinct way of speaking, or, conversely, an elaborate way of speaking, since an extraneous idea is brought in where a single thought would do just as well” (p. 71). Metaphors are the expressions that have additional meaning or the double bottom.
First who conceptualized the idea of conveying two ideas together was I. A. Richards (Kövecses, 2002). Richards called these two paradigms as tenor and vehicle, yet he did not propose any explicit definition of the mechanism between two domains. However, it is possible to suggest that the ‘vehicle’ here represents the idea transmitted by the literal meanings of the words applied metaphorically, while ‘tenor’ is the concept encapsulated through the vehicle.
For the last several decades the metaphorical expressions are viewed through the comparison theory rather than substitution framework where metaphors are viewed in terms of decoration to the core meaning. Several modern psychological and linguistic researches claim that metaphors have to be analyzed as a comparison due to their character. Specifically, there is a view that metaphors have to be analyzed by its cognitive content. As it was mentioned earlier, when using metaphors the speaker encapsulates in the word or expression a deeper meaning, in some cases consciously and sometimes unconsciously. For example, when saying someone being a lion in a fight means he/she was courageous and strong rather than being turned into a real lion. This metaphor derives from the animal world through comparison between an animal and human through some form of reverse anthropomorphism.
The intention to draw a line between the literal and metaphoric meaning is presupposed by the idea that cognitive sense will one way or another will be given to literal meaning. Metaphor, in this case, tends to be a deviant utilization of language. Instead of eliminating the distinction, such point of view relativizes it (Mueller, 2010). In this case, the cognitive element of literal meaning will not be separated from the metaphorical one. Following this perception of metaphor, a conflict emerges with Lakoff & Johnson’s (2003) statements that “our conceptual system is largely structured metaphorically, for past metaphors--now taken as literal--can generally be retrieved as metaphors” (p. 48). Extracting their metaphorical roots can improve the perception of metaphor as a concept, while in other instances it makes the literal meaning ambiguous.
Earlier, Burke (1941) presented the vision towards metaphor as “perspective incongruity”. The researcher internalizes use of metaphors to categorizing, emphasizing that the category a speaker chooses when creating metaphor depends on his/her culture, personal interest, and social convention (Burke, 1941). When using metaphors in speech, speaker does not categorize by the discrepancy observed in metaphor. Such discrepancy stems from the fact that during metaphorization the speakers are guided by particular interest distinctive from those guiding usual categorization.
Metaphors usually derive from common source domains that can be found in all languages and cultures, despite the fact that cultural metaphors can be of different meaning. Usually, metaphoric expressions are derived from such source domains as human body (e.g. head of department), health (e.g. to hurt one’s feelings), animals, plants (e.g. to plant an idea), construction (e.g. being in ruins), machines (e.g. to produce an argument), sports (e.g. to toy with idea), economics (e.g. to spend time), cooking (e.g. recipe for success), motion (e.g. making something step by step), emotion (e.g. burst into tears), and religion (e.g. sacrifice something) (Kövecses, 2002). The source domains of metaphoric expressions are derived from the daily activities or from the constructs existing in nation, society, or culture. At the same time, in several cultures metaphors can be used in the same way. For example, Perez (2008) studied the use of metaphor ‘love as a journey’ in English, Spanish, Italian, German, and French languages producing the findings claiming that in all languages there are certain parallelism between ‘love’ and ‘journey’. At the same time, not only cultural context designates the utilization of metaphors.
Use of Metaphors by Children
For a very long time it was considered that children do not distinguish between the literary and non-literary similarities in words (Piaget, 1962). However, further investigations of this issue produced the results proving that a 4-years child is capable to comprehend this difference and therefore, they can produce and form metaphors (Gassner, 1999). However, whether a child uses metaphors in their conceptual meaning or just makes mistakes in comprehending things, it will depend on the context and situation. For instance, there are so-called “child metaphors”, which are produced by youngsters due to their symbolic perception of the world. One of the examples of this phenomenon was recorded by Winner et al. (1979), who documented a lot of instances of “child metaphors”. During their experiments, a 2 years old participants pointed to the yellow baseball hat screaming “corn, corn”, a 1 year old child called toy car as “a snake”, another 2 year old respondent claimed that “cup swimming," during the time when he played with the cup in the bath, finally, a 3 years old child claimed to be “a big waterfall”, when sliding down from his father’s laps (Winner et al., 1979).
These utterances used by children differ significantly from the traditional understanding of metaphor, as they violate the form of reference. “Child metaphors” are produced due to the comparisons of certain objects that belong to distinctive conventional categories. At the same time, researchers still argue if “child metaphors” can be perceived as metaphors in general. Some scholars claim that these metaphors are formed by children due to an error or lack of understanding certain things and events due to their developmental specificities (Piaget, 1962; Matter & Davis, 1975). Other researchers insist that “child metaphors represent the conscious violation of an established category and thus that they are truly metaphorical” (Billow, 1981). Such a conflicting view towards this subject matter stems from the nature of metaphors, children’s developmental capabilities, and the criteria used for distinguishing the categorizations used by youngsters.
For a very long time, scholars followed Piaget’s (1961) framework that claimed a child is incapable to use proper categorizations. Since the heavy criticism of this view and further proof of the contrary view, it was revealed that pre-school children are capable to create correct categorizations and understand the meaning of metaphor as a concept (). For instance, Billow (1981) conducted an experiment involving 73 pre-school children, where the findings proved that youngsters form metaphors on the basis of comparison between the objects rather than due to an error or false understanding of a phenomenon. For example, one of the participants usually called a green carpet as “a grass” because she saw a similarity between grass and the carpet; as the girl comprehended an actual difference between the objects, but tended to call the carpet that way because it was “more fun”, the researcher concluded that youngsters understand not only the concept of metaphor, but also their meaning (Billow, 1981). Therefore, the results of the study imply that children utilize metaphors deliberately and meaningfully, which makes so-called “child metaphors” to be categorized as the traditional metaphors as well.
After this research, Gassner (1999) emphasized that in order to distinguish the real metaphors, it is important to see the difference between overextensions and renaming that children usually use when they do not know how a certain object is named. Further investigations determined that in 62 percent of cases children use overextensions, when they knew the name of both objects and have chosen to give them new names due to similarity between them (Gassner, 1999). Therefore, the studies confirmed that youngsters can form and use metaphors in their conventional meaning, but it also depends on the situation when a child is familiar with both subjects.
Further inquiries noticed that with the age, children demonstrate a decline in using metaphors in their speech. For instance O'Brien (2009) revealed that between the age of 6 and 7, youngsters start to use proper names of subjects choosing not to utilize metaphors. This result can be interpreted from different angles. First of all, during this age, the cognition of children develops quite fast that improves their capabilities of categorization and speech. Secondly, it is the time when children receive their first lessons in language and cognition, where they learn how to speak and comprehend correctly. Both of these factors may affect the intention of youngsters to use metaphoric expressions. Finally, all children tend to mimic their parents and adults in general. It is possible to imply that lack of metaphors in adults’ speech may trigger the same patterns in children.
However, before drawing certain conclusions, it is important to analyze the experiments conducted by researchers as well as the procedures used for data collection and analysis. As practice showed, there are a lot of errors in the methodology that explored the use of metaphors in children. For example, one of the latest experiments conducted in this area claimed that pre-schoolers do not understand the metaphors at all due to their inability to comprehend complicated concepts (Cerchia, 2009). However, a study had a serious limitation and possible threat to internal validity, as the design of the experiment was quite questionable. Specifically, the researcher exposed pre-school children to complex and culturally-bound metaphors; the observation revealed that the majority of the participants could not understand the meaning of the metaphoric expressions (Cerchia, 2009). The main limitation here is the obvious lack of understanding of children of such complex concept that were related to certain culture.
Overall, it is possible to see the difference between the use of metaphors between children and adults. As the research reveals, youngsters tend to form metaphors on the basis of comparison between similar objects, while adults have more complex ways of categorization. For example, adults usually say that they “plant an idea” or they “sacrifice their career” because they use the juxtaposed similarity between the categories like culture, religion, agriculture, etc.; while children say that they are “waterfalls” and the object is “swimming” because they see the similarity in the daily events, tasks, and phenomena. However, both children and adults implement metaphors as the figures of speech. At the same time, it is important to exclude simple the renaming of an object by a child from intentional metaphoric expression.
As the research shows, there is a difference in understanding of metaphors between children and adults. Moreover, scholars tend to conceptualize metaphors differently, which led to the errors in procedures and failure to take into account all variables. However, it was revealed that the children’s speech is more metaphorical due to their developmental specificities, and it addresses certain issues, problems, and purposes of particular situation, while the speech of adults includes a wide variety of poetic and cultural metaphors. Overall, adults use more complicated categorization of objects and events, which formed well-known metaphors, like “hurt someone’s feelings”. Children apply more simplified metaphoric expressions that were considered faulty for a long time. It is possible to conclude that both youngsters and adults use the same intention to implement metaphors even if the categorization and the purpose are different.
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