2. Can people be cold and warm?

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The understanding and production of figurative language in childhood has been the subject of a great deal of research. Most of the research literature on this topic has concentrated on the L1 but the insights gained can also be relevant to the process of learning a foreign language. This chapter reports on a study carried out with young learners of EFL in order to test their understanding of the semantic extensions of the lexemes cold and warm when referring to personality at ages 6, 8 and 10. This area of metaphorical language seems to be particularly problematic for children, and yet the figurative uses of adjectives such as ‘warm’, ‘cool’ and ‘cold’ are conventional in English. As such, these uses will need to be grasped by EFL learners. The results of this study are discussed in relation to the role played by the children’s understanding of the two domains involved (temperatures and personality) and some of the possible implications for the teaching of these lexemes and their semantic extensions in the EFL classroom.


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