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Glucksberg, S. (1998). Understanding metaphors. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 7(2), 39-43.

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An Empirical Study of Figurative Competence of Chinese EFL Learners

1Shanghai University, China

American Journal of Educational Research. 2016, Vol. 4 No. 11, 806-810
DOI: 10.12691/education-4-11-5
Copyright © 2016 Science and Education Publishing

Cite this paper:
Fushou Xiao. An Empirical Study of Figurative Competence of Chinese EFL Learners. American Journal of Educational Research. 2016; 4(11):806-810. doi: 10.12691/education-4-11-5.

Correspondence to: Fushou  Xiao, Shanghai University, China. Email:


Figurative language, which has drawn increasing attention from applied linguists over the decade, plays an indispensable role in language learning and proves particularly challenging for language learners. However, few attempts have been made to thoroughly investigate learners’ difficulties with figurative language so far. This paper aims to investigate, through an exploratory study involving a cohort of 63 subjects, Chinese EFL learners’ knowledge of figurative language, their difficulties as well as the sources of their difficulties. The learners took an in-class quiz on figurative expressions motivated by three different cognitive mechanisms (i.e., metaphor, metonymy and world knowledge). All the data were analyzed in order to explore the overall patterns of the learners’ figurative competence, the differences between good and poor learners and the relationships between figurative competence and overall English proficiency. It is found that the learners had the least difficulty with figurative expressions based on metonymy, but the greatest difficulty with those based on world knowledge, that huge differences existed between good and poor learners in their figurative competence, that metonymy-motivated figurative competence was positively correlated with overall language proficiency, almost at the .05 significance level.