Metaphor plays a unique role in cognitive development by structuring abstract concepts and leading to conceptual change. Existing work suggests early emergence of metaphorical abilities, with five-year-olds understanding and explaining metaphors that involve cross-domain comparisons (e.g., SPACE to TIME). Yet relatively little is known about the factors that explain this developmental change. This study focuses on spatial metaphors for time, and asks whether cognitive and/or verbal factors best explain developmental changes in three- to six-year-old children's comprehension and explanation of metaphors. The results show that children's grasp of the time concept—but not verbal ability—predicts their metaphor comprehension. Verbal ability, on the other hand, is a predictor of metaphor explanation, even after controlling for age. The results thus suggest that cognitive and verbal factors selectively predict children's emerging metaphorical abilities.
Stites, L. & Özçaliskan, S. (2013). Teasing apart the role of cognitive and linguistic factors in children’s metaphorical abilities. Metaphor and Symbol, 28(2), 116-129. DOI: 10.1080/10926488.2013.768511