Get to know a Metaphor Club member

Who is the researcher?

Dorota Gaskins is a cognitive linguist whose research is rooted in usage-based linguistics. In her work so far, Dorota has examined early bilingualism, which is a perfect testing ground for any input-output hypotheses because the two languages are in a constant competition for both the input and output space. Her work has been driven by the questions of how the quality of the child’s two languages determines what words and constructions are acquired, and how the changing nature of constructions affects the manner in which children switch their two languages within utterances.

What is her current project about?

The aim of Dorota’s current project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, is to develop usage-based tools for the study of metaphor production in monolingual and bilingual children aged two to six. The project examines how children acquire metaphors to make sense of their new experiences and to conceptualise the world around them. How do they learn what it takes to be ‘cold towards strangers’, ‘angels with their grandmothers’ or to ‘parrot their siblings’? The range of metaphors children use is very broad. Is all metaphor acquisition rooted in our experience of the world, and so age-sensitive, and truly universal? Or is at least some of it language-sensitive and driven by caregiver speech and children’s own language abilities?

Who can benefit?

With so much of everyday education rooted in metaphor, from science to literature and maths, lack of metaphor understanding presents an extra hurdle for young children. The metaphor project will provide a systematic account for when and why children start to produce metaphors, an area largely absent from current research, both in monolingual and bilingual acquisition. As bilingualism is associated with language deficiency, the project will positively shape teachers’ perceptions of migrant children, thus reducing their misplacement in ability sets is primary schools. The project will also recommend educational interventions to grow metaphor use in bilingual speakers, improving these children’s access to UK education and their overall learning.

Contact details

If you would like to learn more about the project, please contact Dorota via email at

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