, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 1-20
Date: 26 Jun 2007

Definitions of Idioms in Preadolescents, Adolescents, and Adults

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The purpose of this study was to expand the current literature on word definitions by focusing on definitions of idioms provided by several age groups. Preadolescents, young adolescents, older adolescents, and adults wrote definitions for 10 frequently used idioms and also rated their familiarity with the idiomatic expressions. Participants’ definitions were scored based on the degree to which their definitions reflected use of critical elements (determined by a standard dictionary of idioms), use of examples or related/associated concepts, and errors. Significant age differences were found in both idiom familiarity and idiom definition tasks: both idiom familiarity and definitional skill improved with age. In addition, we found a positive correlation between idiom familiarity and idiom definition. Results are discussed with respect to age-related changes in definitional response types and understanding of figurative language.