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Poem production is a common form of language play in young children, and provides interesting information about their metalinguistic abilities. A task involving poem production was given to 122 English children, 59 French children, 148 Italian children, 118 Polish children and 118 Brazilian (Portuguese-speaking) children between the ages of 4 and 6. The basic task involved the successive presentation of three pictures. After each picture was presented, the child was asked, "Could you tell me a story about this picture?" One of three poems dealing with the picture (a rhyming poem, an alliterative poem and a simile poem) was then presented as a stimulus, and the child was asked, "Can you make up something like that?" During this task, each child heard one rhyming poem, one alliterative poem and one simile poem. In all, 260 poems were produced by the English children, 189 by the French children, 217 by the Italian children, 132 by the Polish children, and 160 by the Brazilian children. Italian and Polish children used phonological devices in a significantly higher proportion of their poems than English children, who in turn used them significantly more often than French or Brazilian children. The relative frequency of rhyme and alliteration also varied with culture. The use of simile and metaphor was greatest in the two language groups that produced fewer phonological devices.


Journal article


Cahiers de Psychologie Cognitive

Publication Date





389 - 416


Ann Dowker, Oxford University, Dept of Experimental Psychology, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3UD, England, Grazyna Krasowicz, Tech Univ Lublin, Lublin, PL-20618, Poland, Giuliana Pinto, University of Florence, Dipartimento di Psicologia, Florence, I-50121, Italy, Antonio Roazzi, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil, Anita Smith, Oxford University, Queens College, Oxford, OX1 4AW, England


Young children, Cross-linguistic, Poems, Metalinguistic abilities, Phonological awareness, Rhyme, Alliteration, Metaphor