Volume 37, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0155-0640
  • E-ISSN: 1833-7139


Research shows that the most important skill to possess when learning a previously unknown word is to be able to interpret its meaning based on the context in which it is found (Nation, 2001). This is especially true for L1 learners, but regrettably, research shows, not as true for students learning a second language (Nation, 2001). The aim of the present study is therefore to investigate what differences, if any, there are between advanced learners’ inferencing skills in their first versus their second language. This is done by subjecting 15 first-term university students to two parallel inferencing tests in their L1 (Swedish) and L2 (English) respectively. Although the number of inferences and the success rate vary from student to student, the results of the present study show that the learners made extensive use of contextual clues, in their L1 as well as in their L2. Also, the success rate was comparatively high, indicating the great potential learners possess for inferencing. However, in order to improve the students’ results, it may be that the teaching syllabus needs to make room for instruction on how to make use of contextual clues so that the potential learners clearly possess is nurtured further.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Albrechtsen, D. , Haastrup, K. , & Henriksen, B.
    (2008) Vocabulary and writing in a first and second language: Processes and development. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. doi: 10.1057/9780230593404
    https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230593404 [Google Scholar]
  2. Artley, A. S.
    (1943) Teaching word-meaning through context. Elementary English Review, 20, 68–74.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Bensoussan, M. & Laufer, B.
    (1984) Lexical guessing in context in EFL reading comprehension. Journal of Research in Reading, 7, 15–32. doi: 10.1111/j.1467‑9817.1984.tb00252.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9817.1984.tb00252.x [Google Scholar]
  4. Carnine, D. , Kameeniu, E. J. , & Coyle, G.
    (1984) Utilization of contextual information in determining the meaning of unfamiliar words.Reading Research Quarterly, 19, 188–204. doi: 10.2307/747362
    https://doi.org/10.2307/747362 [Google Scholar]
  5. Cederholm, P. & Danell, A.
    (2007) Känslan för ord. Svenska B.Malmö: Gleerup.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Chihara, T. , Oller, J. , Weaver, K. , & Chavez-Oller, M. A.
    (1977) Are cloze items sensitive to discourse constraints?Language Learning, 27, 63–73. doi: 10.1111/j.1467‑1770.1977.tb00292.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-1770.1977.tb00292.x [Google Scholar]
  7. Daneman, M. & Green, I.
    (1986) Individual differences in comprehending and producing words in context.Journal of Memory and Language, 25, 1–18. doi: 10.1016/0749‑596X(86)90018‑5
    https://doi.org/10.1016/0749-596X(86)90018-5 [Google Scholar]
  8. Haastrup, K.
    (1991) Lexical inferencing procedures or talking about words: Receptive procedures in foreign language learning with special reference to English. Tübingen: Gunter Narr.
    [Google Scholar]
  9. Herman, P. A. , Anderson, R. C. , Pearson, P. D. , & Nagy, W. E.
    (1987) Incidental acquisition of word meaning from expositions with varied text features. Reading Research Quarterly, 22, 263–284. doi: 10.2307/747968
    https://doi.org/10.2307/747968 [Google Scholar]
  10. Horst, M. , Cobb, T. , & Meara, P.
    (1998) Beyond a Clockwork Orange: Acquiring second language vocabulary through reading. Reading in a Foreign Language, 11, 207–223.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. Huckin, T. & Bloch, J.
    (1993) Strategies for inferring word meanings: A cognitive model. In T. Huckin , M. Haynes , & J. Coady , (Eds.) Second language reading and vocabulary learning (pp.153–180). Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Jenkins, J. R. & Dixon, R.
    (1983) Vocabulary learning. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 8, 237–260. doi: 10.1016/0361‑476X(83)90016‑4
    https://doi.org/10.1016/0361-476X(83)90016-4 [Google Scholar]
  13. Karlsson, M.
    (2012) Quantitative and qualitative aspects of advanced students’ L1 (Swedish) nd L2 (English) knowledge of vocabulary. Research report. Halmstad: Halmstad University.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Kim, H.
    (2003) Vocabulary comprehension of advanced ESL learners in academic reading: A collective case study. MA thesis, University of Ottawa.
    [Google Scholar]
  15. Koda, K.
    (2005) Insights into second language reading: A cross-linguistic approach. New York: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9781139524841
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139524841 [Google Scholar]
  16. Laufer, B.
    (1988) What percentage of text-lexis is essential for comprehension?In C. Laurén & M. Nordmann , (Eds.) Special language: From humans thinking to thinking machines. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. (1997) What’s in a word that makes it hard or easy?: Some interlexical factors that affect the learning of words. In N. Schmitt & M. McCarthy , (Eds.) Vocabulary: Description, acquisition and pedagogy (140–155). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  18. Laufer, B. & Sim, D. D.
    (1985) Taking the easy way out: non-use and misuse of clues in EFL reading. English Teaching Forum, 23(2), 7–10, 20.
    [Google Scholar]
  19. Lessing, D.
    (1992) To room nineteen. In G. Övergaard , R. Lundén & S-J Spänberg , (Eds.) Short fictions: Stories from the English-speaking world of today (pp.62–91). Stockholm: Natur och Kultur.
    [Google Scholar]
  20. Leys, M. , Fielding, L. , Herman, P. , & Pearson, P. D.
    (1983) Does cloze measure intersentence comprehension? A modified replication of Shanahan, Kamil, and Tobin. In J. A. Niles & L. A. Harris , (Eds.) Searches for meaning in reading/Language processing and instruction. 32nd Yearbook of National Reading Conference. New York: Rochester.
    [Google Scholar]
  21. Liu, N. & Nation, I. S. P.
    (1985) Factors affecting guessing vocabulary in context. RELC Journal, 16, 33–42. doi: 10.1177/003368828501600103
    https://doi.org/10.1177/003368828501600103 [Google Scholar]
  22. Nagy, W. E. , Anderson, R. C. , & Herman, P. A.
    (1987) Learning word meanings from context during normal reading. American Educational Research Journal, 24, 237–270. doi: 10.3102/00028312024002237
    https://doi.org/10.3102/00028312024002237 [Google Scholar]
  23. Nassaji, H.
    (2004) The relationship between depth of vocabulary knowledge and L2 learners’ lexical inferencing strategy use and success. Canadian Modern Language Review, 61(1), 107–134. doi: 10.3138/cmlr.61.1.107
    https://doi.org/10.3138/cmlr.61.1.107 [Google Scholar]
  24. Nation, I. S. P.
    (2001) Learning vocabulary in another language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9781139524759
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139524759 [Google Scholar]
  25. Odlin, T.
    (2003) Cross-linguistic influence. In C. J. Doughty & M. H. Long , (Eds.) The handbook of second language acquisition (pp.436–386). Malden, MA: Blackwell. doi: 10.1002/9780470756492.ch15
    https://doi.org/10.1002/9780470756492.ch15 [Google Scholar]
  26. Palmberg, R.
    (1988) On lexical inferencing and language distance. Journal of Pragmatics, 12, 207–214. doi: 10.1016/0378‑2166(88)90079‑3
    https://doi.org/10.1016/0378-2166(88)90079-3 [Google Scholar]
  27. Paribakht, T. S.
    (2005) The influence of first language lexicalisation on second language lexical inferencing: A study of Farsi-speaking learners of English as a foreign language. Language Learning, 55, 701–748. doi: 10.1111/j.0023‑8333.2005.00321.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0023-8333.2005.00321.x [Google Scholar]
  28. Paribakht, T. S. & Tréville, M. C.
    (2007) L’influence lexicale chez des locuteures de français et des locuteures de person lors de la lecture de texts anglais: Effet de la lexicalisation en première langue. The Canadian Modern Language Review, 63(3), 399–428.
    [Google Scholar]
  29. Paribakht, T. S. & Wesche, M.
    (2006) Lexical inferencing in L1 and L2: Implications for learning and instruction at advanced levels. In H. Byrnes , H. Weger-Guntharp , K. A. Sprang , (Eds.) Educating for advanced foreign language capacities: Constructs, curriculum, instruction, assessment. (pp.118–135). Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. Qian, D. D.
    (2004) Second language lexical inferencing: Preferences, perceptions, and practices. In P. Bogaards & B. Laufer , (Eds.) Vocabulary in a second language. Selection, acquisition and testing (pp.155–172). Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company. doi: 10.1075/lllt.10.11qia
    https://doi.org/10.1075/lllt.10.11qia [Google Scholar]
  31. Reaney, J.
    (1986) The bully. In M. Atwood & R. Weaver , (Eds.) The Oxford book of Canadian short stories in English (pp.152–161). Toronot: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  32. Ringbom, H.
    (1987) The role of first language in foreign language learning. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
    [Google Scholar]
  33. Rye, J.
    (1985) Are cloze items sensitive to constraints across sentences? A Review. Journal of Research in Reading (UKRA), 8, 94–105. doi: 10.1111/j.1467‑9817.1985.tb00310.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9817.1985.tb00310.x [Google Scholar]
  34. Schmitt, N. & McCarthy, M.
    (Eds.) (1997) Vocabulary: description, acquisition and pedagogy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  35. Shefelbine, J. L.
    (1990) Student factors related to variability in learning word meanings from context. Journal of Reading Behavior, 22, 71–97.
    [Google Scholar]
  36. Spräkbanken
    (2013) [Language corpora]. Retrieved fromspraakbanken.gu.se/.
  37. Stahl, S. A. & Fairbanks, M. M.
    (1986) The effects of vocabulary instruction: A model based metaanalysis. Review of Educational Research, 56, 72–110. doi: 10.3102/00346543056001072
    https://doi.org/10.3102/00346543056001072 [Google Scholar]
  38. Sternberg, R. J.
    (1987) Most vocabulary is learned from context. In M. G. McKeown & M. E. Curtis , (Eds.) The nature of vocabulary acquisition. Erlbaum: Hillsdale, NJ.
    [Google Scholar]
  39. Süskind, P
    (1986) Parfymen. Berättelsen om en mördare. ( U. Wallenström , Trans.). Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand.
    [Google Scholar]
  40. Swanborn, E. & de Glopper, K.
    (1999) Incidental word learning while reading: A meta analysis. Review of Educational Research, 69, 261–285. doi: 10.3102/00346543069003261
    https://doi.org/10.3102/00346543069003261 [Google Scholar]
  41. Webb, S.
    (2008) The effects of context on incidental vocabulary learning. Reading in a Foreign Language, 20, 232–245.
    [Google Scholar]
  42. Wesche, M. & Paribakht, T. S.
    (2010) Lexical inferencing in a first and second language: Crosslinguistic dimensions. Buffalo, NY: Multilingual Matters.
    [Google Scholar]
  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): advanced learners; L1 versus L2; lexical inferencing; written context
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error