[[abstract]]The purpose of the present study is to examine the Chinese word si and first language acquisition of its metaphorical expressions. Five issues were discussed, i.e., Markedness Theory (Goodluck, 1991), context effects, animacy effects, categorical effects, and age effects. A total of 144 subjects from an elementary school were asked to participate in the study. They were further divided into six age groups (6;4, 7;7, 8;7, 9;7, 10;7, 11;6). Two comprehension tasks were employed: the Words in Isolation (WII) Task, and the Words in Context (WIC) Task. The results showed that literal expressions of si phrases, which were unmarked (Goodluck, 1991), were easier for the children to comprehend than metaphorical and marked expressions. The children performed better on the WIC Task than that on the WII Task, and contextual clues were beneficial for the children especially in identifying the metaphorical phrases. It was found that the interpretation of si phrases was constrained by the animate feature of the subject NP. The difficulty of literal and metaphorical meanings of si, Verb > Adjective > Adverb, and si + V > V > V + si, was subject to its syntactic type, implying that considering si as a verb is easier than treating it as an adjective or adverb in interpreting its metaphorical use, and that interpreting the metaphorical meaning of the compound, si + V, is easier than interpreting that of si as a verb or the compound V + si. Last, age was found to play a dominant role in the development of metaphorical ability. The older children indeed performed better on both types of meanings, both tasks, and syntactic complicated phrases than younger children. Grade 4 (i.e., over 10 years old) seemed to be a milestone of children’s possessing comprehension ability of the figurative language.
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