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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.
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.
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.
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.
Some sentences are actual definitions of new terms.
For example: Histology is the study of cell tissue.
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.
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.
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.
The methods explained in this presentation are based on Reading Skills for College Students by Ophelia Hancock.