The Point Of Words: Children's Understanding of Metaphor and Irony by Ellen WinnerThe Point Of Words: Children's Understanding of Metaphor and Irony by Ellen Winner

The Point Of Words: Children's Understanding of Metaphor and Irony

byEllen Winner

Paperback | March 25, 1997

Pricing and Purchase Info

$35.96 online 
$39.95 list price save 9%
Earn 180 plum® points

Prices and offers may vary in store


In stock online

Ships free on orders over $25

Not available in stores


A small child looks at a dripping faucet and says that it is drooling." Another calls a centipede a "comb." An older child notices the mess in his younger brother's room and says, "Wow, it sure is neat in here." Children's spontaneous speech is rich in such creative, nonliteral discourse. How do children's abilities to use and interpret figurative language change as they grow older? What does such language show us about the changing features of children's minds?

In this absorbing book, psychologist Ellen Winner examines the development of the child's ability to use and understand metaphor and irony. These, she argues, are the two major forms of figurative language and are, moreover, complementary. Metaphor, which describes and sometimes explains, highlights attributes of a topic. As such, it serves primarily a cognitive function. Irony highlights the speaker's attitude toward the subject arid presupposes an appreciation of that attitude by the listener. In contrast to metaphor, irony serves primarily a social function. Winner looks in detail at the ways these forms of language differ structurally and at the cognitive and social capacities required for each.

The book not only draws on the author's own empirical studies but also offers a valuable synthesis of research in the area: it is the first account that spans the realm of figurative language. Winner writes clearly and engagingly and enlivens her account with many vivid examples from children's speech. The book will appeal to developmental psychologists, educators, psychologists of language, early-language specialists, students of literature, indeed, anyone who is delighted by the fanciful utterances of young children.

Ellen Winner is Professor of Psychology at Boston College and Senior Research Associate at Project Zero, Harvard University. She is also the author of Gifted Children: Myths and Realities.
Title:The Point Of Words: Children's Understanding of Metaphor and IronyFormat:PaperbackDimensions:224 pages, 9 × 6 × 0 inPublished:March 25, 1997Publisher:Harvard

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0674681266

ISBN - 13:9780674681262

Look for similar items by category:


Table of Contents

Metaphor and Irony in Communication

Philosophical and Linguistic Approaches to Metaphor and Irony

Measures of Metaphor

Constraints on Metaphor Comprehension

Early Metaphors in Spontaneous Speech

Metaphor and Cognition

How Children Misunderstand Irony

Constraints on Irony Comprehension

Why Children Understand Metaphor before Irony



Editorial Reviews

A rich book that addresses important issues. Winner is right that nonliteral language reflects a pervasive human ability, and revealing the bases and development of metaphor and irony displays fundamental aspects of human cognition.

Ellen Winner's insights into the development of metaphor and irony add immensely to our understanding of children and provide a richer appreciation of language's richest forms.