Interpretation and recall of proverbs in three school-age populations

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The study investigates schoolchildren's command of proverbs as a facet of figurative language, testing their ability to go beyond the referential content of the linguistic message and their familiarity with established non-literal sayings as indicative of lexical development. The tasks involved (1) interpretation of unfamiliar proverbial sayings that are non-conventionalized in Hebrew - in context-free and contextualized conditions - and (2) recall of established traditional Hebrew proverbs. Participants were 4th- and 8th-graders from three populations: typically developing children of high and low SES backgrounds respectively and a group of high SES language-impaired children. Results show a clear rise in performance with age and schooling on both tasks, with greater success in interpreting novel sayings than in recalling traditional proverbs. The language-impaired group scored lowest on all tasks, with the low SES children doing less well than their high SES peers on interpretation but better on recall.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-173
Number of pages19
JournalFirst Language
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2010


  • Figurative language
  • Hebrew
  • Language-impaired
  • Proverbs
  • School-age
  • Socioeconomic status


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