The role of reading comprehension in word meaning acquisition during reading

Research paper by Irene-Anna N. Diakidoy

Indexed on: 01 Jun '98Published on: 01 Jun '98Published in: European Journal of Psychology of Education


The purpose of this study was to explore the influence of reading comprehension on the acquisition of word meanings from context and to compare it to the effects of local context characteristics, such as proximity and directness of context clues. The study also examined the effects of prior topic and enabling concept knowledge. Sixth-grade students were pretested on their knowledge of target vocabulary from two expository passages appropriate for their grade and reading level. The students were then familiarized with selected main concepts from one passage and, subsequently, read both experimental passages. Half of the target words appeared in an informative context, while the rest appeared in an less-informative context. A comprehension test and a vocabulary posttest followed the reading of each passage. Hierarchical Regression analyses indicated that reading comprehension level and prior main concept knowledge facilitated vocabulary learning from context. In comparison, the effect of presence or absence of informative context clues was not significant. These findings, underline the need for a reconceptualization of context to take into account the mental representation that readers construct in addition to the printed text that surrounds an unfamiliar word.