Children’s metaphoric expressions; The meaning of friendship. A comparative analysis between the USA and Poland

Krystyna Nowak-Fabrykowski, Monika Wiśniewska-Kin, Anastasia Bristley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The goal of this research project is to analyze children’s understanding of the concept of friendship by investigating symbolic representation in drawing and metaphoric expression in language. This research project is grounded in the conceptual metaphor theory (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980), in which metaphor is defined as a conceptual-linguistic mapping between a source and a target domain. It uses qualitative, ethnographic research based on Spradley’s (1979) theory stating that meanings are derived from symbolically coded concepts where X is a symbol and Y is a referent. The researchers in this study, one from the USA and one from Poland, asked a group of preschool children to draw pictures of their friends. When the children finished their drawings, the researchers asked them 4 questions: “What did you draw?” “Why are they friends?” and “A friend is like…”, “A friendship is like…”. The results demonstrate that preschool children have the cognitive ability to understand the concept of friend and even differentiate between friends and playmates. In the study, the children could determine the number of their real friends, and for most children in both countries, it was 1 or 2 friends. In the group of American children, friendship (X) had two basic meanings (Y): helping (YH) and playing (YP). In Poland, friendship meant playing (YP) and being together after school (YBT). The children in both countries associated friends (target domain) with (source domain) certain people (FP), character quality (FCH), activity (FA) and (FO) object/places. A comparison of the results demonstrates a difference in the number of friends the children claimed to have in Poland versus the USA. Additionally, the research showed that the American children drew only their friends without including themselves, while the Polish children included themselves in their pictures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-69
Number of pages14
JournalNew Educational Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2017


  • Friendship
  • Metaphoric expressions


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