European Journal of Psychology of Education

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 131–154 | Cite as

The role of reading comprehension in word meaning acquisition during reading

  • Irene-Anna N. Diakidoy


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.


L'objet de cette ètude est de savoir si la compréhension d'un texte facilite l'acquisition du sens de certains mots qui le composent et d'examiner par comparaison le rôle de la proximité et de la valeur informative d'índices contextuels locaux. Le rôle des connaissances antérieures en vocabulaire et dans le domaine de référence du texte a été également étudié. Les sujets sont des élèves de 6ème année.

Dans une phase de prétest on évalue la connaissance qu'ils ont d'un ensemble de mots-cibles appartenant à deux textes adaptés à leur niveau de lecture et à leur niveau scolaire. Les élèves sont ensuite familiarisés avec les principaux concepts d'un des deux textes et, immédiatement aprés, lisent les deux textes expérimentaux. La moitié des mots-cibles apparaît dans un contexte très informatif, alors que l'autre moitié apparaît dans un contexte moins informatif. Dans la troisième phase on teste la compréhension des textes et la compréhension des mots-cibles. Une analyse de régression hiérarchique met en évidence que la compréhension des textes et les connaissances lexicales antérieures facilitent l'utilisation du contexte dans l'acquisition du sens des mots. Par comparaison, la présence ou l'absence d'índices contextuels informatifs n'a pas d'effet significatif. Ces résultas soulignent la nécessité d'une reconceptualisation du contexte prenant en compte la représentation mentale construite par les lecteurs, au delà du texte imprimé qui entourne un mot non familier.

Key words

Comprehension Context Vocabulary 


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Copyright information

© Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada, Lisbon, Portugal/ Springer Netherlands 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Irene-Anna N. Diakidoy
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EducationUniversity of CyprusNicosiaCyprus

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