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Title: Demystifying the Jabberwocky : a research narrative.
Author: Scott, Michael Rowland.
Awarding Body: University of Lancaster
Current Institution: Lancaster University
Date of Award: 1990
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This piece of research analyses lexical inferencing, the process of working out the meanings of unknown words using context clues. Three main aspects are considered: to what extent subjects succeed or fail in making plausible inferences about word meaning, their feelings and attitudes towards the process, and the techniques or strategies which they resQrt to. The thesis is structured as a research narrative, pre~ senting twelve studies dating from 1983 to 1989. Subjects were adult Brazilians, reading in English as a foreign language, and/or in their native language, Portuguese. Adult lexical inference is shown to be more successful than previous studies using children reading in their native language had suggested. Evidence is presented to suggest that subjects characteristically use~ a narrow context of a few words on either side of the target item in attempting lexical inference, and that this breadth of context was sufficient for most inferences. The suggestion that there may be a vocabulary 'threshold', below which lexical inference is impeded, is rejected. Implausible inferences came generally either from mis-recognition of word forms, or from ignoring wider amounts of context. Evidence is presented to suggest that familiarity of the underlying concept is a major variable. Subjects' hypotheses about word meaning were mostly at an appropriate level of specificity, and gradually refined as more evidehce became available. There was little evidence of over-certainty. Further variables of importance are subjects' beliefs about what "knowing" a word is, and their level of awareness about the lexical inference process. A wide range of feelings (positive, negative and of caution) were observed. No one pattern of strategy use was firmly aS$ociated with greater lexical inference success rates. Instead, subjects made great use of background knowledge and lexis-based strategies and little use of discoursal or grammatical features.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Lexical inferencing Linguistics