Crutchley, Alison (2007) Comprehension of idiomatic verb + particle constructions in 6- to 11-year-old children. First Language, 27 (3). pp. 203-226. ISSN 0142-7237

The ability to comprehend non-literal language is still developing throughout the school years. This study analysed the responses of a large stratified sample of 6- to 11-year-old children to a forced-choice picture selection task testing a common type of idiomatic expression: verb+particle constructions such as `look up' and `call off'. Effects for frequency were found in children's comprehension of particular verb+particle constructions. Furthermore, distractor analysis revealed that children may not have been applying simple decompositional semantic strategies in their attempts to comprehend unfamiliar verbs. It seemed that syntactic features of the verbs were also taken into account, and that children made use of contextual information only in certain circumstances. It is argued that children's choices of distractors indicated that they employed a holistic rather than an analytic approach to comprehension of unfamiliar particle verbs.

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