Author Topic: using cues to get to the meaning of unknown words  (Read 2409 times)

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Offline Freddy Freitez

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using cues to get to the meaning of unknown words
« on: May 02, 2012, 04:51:35 AM »
 In the text below, you will find a very useful tool to teach some contextual cues. In other words, you will find some aids to get to the meaning of unknown words. This cues or clues are part of the same text, which means that you can use them to read just about any text and they will help a lot. You can use this material either to learn yourself or to teach others how to keep the use of dictionaries to a minimum when reading. Enjoy.
CONTEXTUAL CUES
Even if you know how to use a dictionary well, it is often a hassle to be looking up every word that you do not know or every cognate that does not mean exactly what you think it ought to mean. That is why a good writer will try to help his readers understand the message he is trying to convey. He aids his readers’ comprehension by sticking to the topic he is writing about and by using “cues” or “clues” in the context to help the readers make “educated” guesses as to the meaning of certain words. Most of these cues are other words to help clarify, define, and explain difficult concepts. Some of the more common contextual cues or clues to the meaning of the context are illustrated here.Common contextual Cues
1.  Contrast[font=]Even if you know how to use a dictionary well, it is often a hassle to be looking up every word that you do not know or every cognate that does not mean exactly what you think it ought to mean.[/font]
Discussion: A comma (textual cue) separates the subordinate or dependent clause from the main or independent clause. The fifth word of the main clause, hassle, might be unknown to many nonnative speakers although it is used very frequently by native-English writers. The introductory subordinating conjunction, even if, establishes a condition of contrast. This contrast should express two different conditions – one in the first clause and an opposite one in the second clause. In the introductory subordinate clause, it is assumed that the reader is able to use a dictionary efficiently. A person may be able to do something well, but that does not mean that he always wants to perform the action for various reasons. In this case, he might not have a dictionary with him or maybe he has many words to look up or maybe he is tired. Whatever the excuse not to use the dictionary may be, the fact is that the reader does no want to take the time or trouble to look up every word; he does not want the hassle.
2.  Definition[font=]Intrigued, the teacher lets the boy tell his stories in both words and drawings, in what is called rebus writing. When he writes “I love,” for example the word “love” appears as a finely detailed heart.[/font]
Discussion: Here there are two contextual cues to define and exemplify the word rebus. In the first sentence, before the adjective rebus is used, the unknown vocabulary item has been defined as writing that uses both “words and drawings.” The second sentence is a minor sentence to give support to the previous sentence by giving a concrete example. There is even use of the expression for example separated from the rest of the sentence by commas (textual cues) to indicate that an example is being given.
3 .  Appositives[font=]Locutus[font=] (the dreaded migratory grasshoppers of the prairies) could destroy a family’s whole corn crop in a matter of minutes. From these adversities, the trials and tribulations of the times, came the legends of the hardy American pioneer[/font][/font]
Discussion: Appositives are sentences which the words which (or who) is/are/was/were have been deleted from an adjective clause.
4 .  Series[font=]“We make it known to children that learning requires us to make mistakes because we learn through our mistakes,” Slanina says. “Thus every child’s opinion is valuable. So mimicking, mocking, and putdowns of others are  just not tolerated.”[/font]
Discussion: In the third sentence of the quotation (the exact statement or words spoken by a person name Slanina), there is a series of three nouns – “mimicking, mocking, and putdowns.” The use of a comma (textual cue) between the first two items in addition with the coordinating conjunction and between the last two items serves as a signal to the reader that there is a series or compound structure. The word mimicking is a cognate in many Romance languages and the meaning has not varied much in its usage. The word putdowns is a compound noun coming from the phrasal verb to put down which could mean “to place lower” possibly in a person’s perception of himself or self-esteem. Since mimicking and putdowns refer to negative imitation and they are in series with the unknown mocking, then mocking must indicate some kind of negative imitation.
5 .  Parallelism[font=]I lined up books on low shelves around the house, stuck them under the bedroom dresser, even put some in a bottom kitchen cabinet, places where Autumn could discover them herself.[/font]
Discussion: In some of the precious examples (#1,2, and 3), we have already seen parallel structures. These are structures that have the same grammatical function in a given sentence so they should also have the same grammatical form. In the sentence above, there is a compound predicate (conjugated verb in the past tense followed by its direct object and an adverbial expression or adjunct of place) in a series. Each verb is transitive and in the past tense, each direct object is a one-word noun or pronoun, and each adverbial expression is a prepositional phrase. If the reader does not know the meaning of the verb stuck, then the parallel structure help him decipher its meaning form the verbs put first of all since it is a very common verb and secondly from the phrasal verb lined up which should mean “to put in a line.” Therefore stuck should have something to do with locating or placing. We also know that it is a past tense form since the first verb lined up has a familiar past tense inflectional suffix -ed and the context indicates a narration about a person named Autumn (textual cue, capitalization) – narrations are usually in the past tense. So the similar structures (parallelism) help the reader know that stuck means placing and that it is an irregular past tense of some verb (stick).
Taken from  Payne, B. Carolyn (1999). Lecto-escritura Handbook. UPEL. Barquisimeto.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2012, 04:51:55 AM by Freddy Freitez »