Factors influencing children’s interpretation and acquisition of Chichewa idiomatic expressions: A Systemic Functional Linguistics Approach

  • Mervis Kamanga
Keywords: children, Chichewa idiomatic expressions, idiom interpretation and acquisition, socio-cultural context, Systemic Functional Linguistics

Abstract

Adopting Systemic Functional Linguistics, the study investigated factors that influence idiom interpretation and acquisition in children. Semantic analysability, idiom structure and idiom modification were investigated in 20 native Chichewa speaking children aged between 4 – 14 years. Three experiments were conducted to examine these factors. The data for the study were analysed qualitatively by comparing responses that children gave to identify patterns, differences and similarities. Response types given by children were identified and coded. The data were then quantitatively analysed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS). The results showed that children’s interpretation and acquisition of idioms is not dependent on the analysability and internal structure of the idioms, although these may affect interpretation and acquisition. The idiom can be analysable or can have a well-formed structure but children can still fail to interpret  it if they lack knowledge of the socio-cultural context within which the idiom is consumed. The results also showed that idiom modification does not affect children’s interpretation of idioms. The paper argues that the socio-cultural context within which idioms are produced is central to their interpretation and acquisition. As such, teachers should explain the socio-cultural contexts within which idioms were produced to facilitate idiom learning.

Keywords: children, Chichewa idiomatic expressions, idiom interpretation and acquisition, socio-cultural context, Systemic Functional Linguistics

Published
2018-01-23
Section
Articles

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eISSN: 1016-0728