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The developmental trajectory of mandarin Chinese-speaking children’s pure metonymy comprehension ability

Songqiao Xie

Article ID: 1457
Vol 4, Issue 1, 2022, Article identifier:78-99

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This empirical study investigates Chinese children’s developmental trajectory of pure metonymy comprehension. In the light of the experiment design in Jiang’s (2019) and Köder and Falkum’s (2020) studies, the present study, adopting a quantitative approach, employed a modified behavioral experiment and an eye-tracking experiment. Drawing on the experimental data, the study finds that: a) children’s metonymy comprehension performance showed a tendency towards the U-shape in the behavioral experiment tasks; b) children’s target (metonymy) fixation proportion, however, developed with age in the eye-tracking tasks; c) children’s metonymy comprehension not only developed with age but also showed different features in different difficulty levels of metonymies. Thus, this study explains the U-shape by arguing that age-4 and -5 children’s pure metonymy comprehension ability can be masked not only by a literal preference reported in Köder and Falkum’s (2020) study but also by the high randomness of task results of the age-3 participants and the high level of difficulty of culture-related metonymies. Moreover, the study also argues that year six is a crucial stage for children’s metonymy comprehension development, which provides implications for children’s early figurative language education.


children’s metonymy; pure comprehension; developmental trajectory; eye-tracking experiment; behavioral experiment

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