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Increasing Vocabulary. Context Clues. Definition of a Context Clue. The meanings of many words can be figured out by examining their surrounding words and nearby sentences.

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Increasing vocabulary l.jpg

Increasing Vocabulary

Context Clues

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Definition of a Context Clue

  • The meanings of many words can be figured out by examining their surrounding words and nearby sentences.

  • In fact, in the English language, many words have more than one meaning. In that case, the meaning of a particular word is determined by the context in which it appears.

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  • Restatement

  • Synonyms

  • Antonyms

  • Definitions

  • Explanations

  • Relationships

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  • Restatement involves stating an unfamiliar word in another way in the context of the same sentence.

  • For example: Euthanasia, mercy killing, is illegal in the United States. Here mercy killing restates the meaning of the word euthanasia.

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  • Some sentences will contain a more familiar word with the same meaning as a new term to provide a clue as to the meaning of the new word.

  • For example: The doctor turned out to be a charlatan, and his patients were worried they had been treated by a fake physician.

  • Here the word fake is the context clue in the form of a synonym for the word charlatan.

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  • Antonyms are words that have opposite meanings.

  • Some sentences will provide clues to the meaning of an unfamiliar word by including a familiar word with the opposite meaning.

  • For example: Even though the president disapproved of the bill, he sanctioned its passage to avoid conflict with congress.

  • Here the word sanctioned is explained through contrast with its antonym disapproved.

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  • Some sentences are actual definitions of new terms.

  • For example: Histology is the study of cell tissue.

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  • In other sentences, although the new word is not defined, it is explained.

  • For example: People should feel compassion toward the poor because they could one day find themselves in a similar situation and would want others to be understanding toward them.

  • Here the word because indicates that the word compassion is going to be explained.

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  • A less obvious method of revealing a word’s meaning is through the use of relationships. The reader must draw a conclusion as to the meaning of a new word based on the meaning conveyed by the rest of the sentence.

  • For example: The candidate was jubilant when he heard he was ahead in the polls.

  • Here you would infer that the word jubilant meant very happy because being ahead would make a candidate happy.

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In Conclusion

  • Authors often reveal the meanings of new words to readers through the context in which they appear.

  • Methods that are commonly used are restatement, synonyms, antonyms, definitions, explanations, and relationships.

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  • The methods explained in this presentation are based on Reading Skills for College Students by Ophelia Hancock.