How Adolescents Comprehend Unfamiliar Proverbs: The Role of Top-Down and Bottom-Up Processes

Nippold, Marilyn A.; Allen, Melissa M.; Kirsch, Dixon I.
June 2000
Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research;Jun2000, Vol. 43 Issue 3, p621
Academic Journal
Typically achieving students who were 12, 15, and 18 years old (n - 150) participated in this investigation. The goal was to determine the extent to which students' prior knowledge of the nouns in unfamiliar proverbs would be associated with their ability to comprehend the expressions and how the relationship between word knowledge and proverb comprehension might change during the developmental period from late childhood to late adolescence. Proverbs containing concrete nouns (e.g., "Two captains will sink a ship") (concrete proverbs) and those containing abstract nouns (e.g., "Envy is destroyed by true friendship") (abstract proverbs) were presented in a multiple-choice task designed to examine comprehension of the expressions. Knowledge of the relevant semantic features of each noun was examined in a separate multiple-choice task. Word knowledge was found to be associated with proverb comprehension in all groups--and particularly so in the case of abstract proverbs. The results support a model of proverb comprehension in adolescents that includes bottom-up in addition to top-down processes.


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