Publication details [#9878]

Sell, Marie A., Roger J. Kreuz and Lori Coppenrath. 1997. Parents' use of nonliteral language with preschool children. Discourse Processes 23 (1) : 99–118. 20 pp.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language


Seventeen parent-child dyads were videotaped in 30-min free play sessions. The videotapes were transcribed and coded for nonliteral language addressed to the children. Specifically, parents' use of indirect requests and other types of figurative language (e.g., metaphor and idiom) was analyzed. Of the nonliteral forms used, indirect requests occurred most frequently; however, parents did use a number of other nonliteral forms with their preschool children as well. Of particular interest is how the different forms were used by the parents. When analyzed on the basis of linguistic form, a number of relatively independent underlying dimensions emerged. These dimensions reflect the adult use of these forms, such as making forceful statements. However, when the communicative functions of these forms were analyzed, it is evident that parents were using the range of nonliteral forms primarily to achieve the single goal of maintaining their children's participation in the interaction. These results suggest that parents use nonliteral forms differently when addressing preschoolers than when addressing other adults. (Marie A. Sell, Roger J. Kreuz and Lori Coppenrath)