The Role Of Vocabulary In The Metaphorical Processing Of Fluent And Less Fluent Users Of English

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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Purpose. The current investigation focuses on the relative role of global vocabulary and specific attribute knowledge in the metaphorical comprehension of fluent and less fluent users of English. It was hypothesized that an 'attribute minus metaphor' difference would be similar for fluent and for less fluent users of English but that a 'vocabulary minus metaphor' difference would be larger for less fluent than for fluent users of English. Thus, it was expected that there would be an interaction between the groups for 'vocabulary minus metaphor' and 'attribute minus metaphor' scores.Procedure. University upperclassmen of a variety of cultural and linguistic backgrounds were administered a vocabulary screening test. They then wrote their interpretations of a list of metaphors and completed two multiple choice tests which used the metaphorical vehicles of the metaphors presented previously. The multiple choice measures were tests of general vocabulary knowledge and of specific attribute knowledge.Scores from the metaphor and multiple choice measures were converted to z-scores. The metaphor z-scores were subtracted from both the vocabulary and the attribute z-scores. T-tests compared the means of the fluent and the less fluent users of English for the 'vocabulary minus metaphor' scores and for the 'attribute minus metaphor' scores. Additionally, metaphor/attribute and metaphor/vocabulary correlations were computed for the total sample and for the fluent and less fluent groups.Findings. The t-tests comparing the means of the fluent and less fluent users of English on the 'metaphor minus vocabulary' difference and on the 'metaphor minus attribute' difference revealed nonsignificant differences. Two post hoc analyses were done comparing more homogeneous subsamples. In both cases, results were similar to those for the total sample.Conclusion. A synthesis of the findings indicated that global vocabulary knowledge and specific attribute knowledge are highly correlated for adult subjects. However, specific attribute knowledge was found to be more predictive of metaphorical comprehension of less fluent users of English than was general vocabulary knowledge.Recommendation. In order to improve comprehension of metaphorical language, instructors should provide intensive vocabulary instruction which is related to specific metaphors. This recommendation is especially applicable to less fluent users of English.


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