Develop Good Vocabulary without making dictionary as a priority. If you want to read smoothly and fast and with the corresponding high level comprehension without necessarily checking words in the dictionary from time to time, then you must have a rich repertoire of vocabulary which you can develop by:
- listening intently and purposefully to useful communication anytime,anywhere;
- engaging in wide, variedreading;
- exploring context clues to find out meaning of language units in messages;
- analysing the structure of words that is, studying word formation through their prefixes, suffixes and other inflectionalcues;
- using the dictionary and the thesaurus as often asnecessary;
- showing interest in the origin ofwords;
- using acquired new words as much as possible in your
You would recollect that we stressed the interrelationship of listening, reading and writing. We shall now discuss in greater detail, how you can, on the spot, obtain the right meaning from a printed message without necessarily using either the dictionary or thesaurus. Our attempt here is not to discourage you from using these very important reference books. In fact, there is no substitute for them in vocabulary development. Our immediate concern is to acquaint you with certain short-cuts that will enable you derive meaning from printed word without any serious interruption to loss of train of thought whenever you communicate with an author. From now on we shall use language units to refer to words, phrases, normal, idiomatic and figurative expressions.
Using of Context Clues to discover Meaning of Language Units
One major obstacle to reading efficiency and that has resulted in frustration for many students especially at the university level is their inability to guess meaning of language units in context. To clear this obstacle, you have to exploit the various clues most authors provide in the texts.
Context clue is the art of searching the words surrounding an unknown word to get or guess at the author’s intended meaning. You can know the meaning of a language unit by studying its relationships with other words in the context. There are two types of context clues. They are;
The Syntactic Clues
The Syntactic Clues are those clues you can exploit to reduce the possible number of alternatives for an unknown word. They are better applied first before you embark on semantic clues. The syntactic context deals with your knowledge of grammar of English. If, for instance, you are asked to give the meaning of turbulent and blown off in “The roofs of ten houses were blown off during the turbulent storm that swept across the eastern part of Ibadan, last month.” You must first know that turbulent is qualifying word (adjective) while blown off is made up of action word (verb) and “off” a preposition.
This knowledge will help you eliminate other parts of speech and restrict you to the one that fits the context. Your meaning for turbulent has to be a qualifying word while that of blown off has to be action word plus a preposition or an adverbial particle. You can then survey the surrounding words that convey similar meaning to the author’s.
Other syntactic clues are:
- number of the word, i.e. singular orplural;
- tense of the language unit, i.e. present, past orfuture;
- other markers are a, an, the (article) his, her, its, their (possessives); was, had, will (verb markers) to, of, at, over (phrase markers). Since, when, if, that, which (clausemarkers). All these language elements determine the functions, the unknown language units perform in the context.
The Semantic Clues
The semantic clues consist of the various meaning relationship clues which a reader can use to decode the writer’s message.
You can use your familiarity with the situation under discussion to unravel the meaning of a language unit. It involves your recalling the background knowledge you earlier gained through general interaction with people or through wide, varied reading. For example, you can use experience clue to decode “fiasco” as “failure” in “The 1988 Olympic was a fiasco for Nigeria. Her contingent came back home from Seoul without winning a single medal’’.
Explanation Clue takes the forms of formal definition, direct explanation, indirect explanation, or follow-up statementg. Skimming is a form of very fast reading where only chief points are noted.” (formal definition of”Skimming”) Sinology, that is, the study of Chinese language, literature and art, has been introduced in the department of Modern World Languages. (direct explanation of “sinology) The editor’s recapitulation (review of the major points on both sides through a brief summary) of the Expo 77 controversy in the House of Representatives was marvellous.”(indirect explanation of recapitulation through-parentheses) We must an soon learn how to compute in the metric ‘System, which is used in a large number of countries. It is a decimal system of weights and measures universally used in science. (explanation of “metric system” through follow-up statement).
Using Structural Analysis
Another way by which you can tackle vocabulary problem is to examine the structure of the word, especially polysyllable words, that are words which have many syllables. Most words are long because they are derived or formed from another words through the use of prefixes and suffixes. You will be surprised and happy to discover the meaning of such many-syllable words once they are made to fall apart easily. For example, unknown, is made up of un + know + n where know is the root; un the prefix; and n the suffix.
Using the Thesaurus
The Thesaurus is a special reference book that should be your companion. It is a collection of synonyms and antonyms, from which you not only find variations for a large number of words of similar and opposite meanings in your reading but also choose from in your writing.
Using the Dictionary
dictionary is the best external authority in vocabulary development. According to Leedy, a dictionary is a library of information in miniature, the eloquence of the orators piecemeal, the glory of English literature arranged alphabetically. If you have a good learners’ dictionary, learn to use it regularly for dictionary has many functions.