Vol. 3. No. 2 A-1 March 1998
Return to Table of Contents Return to Main Page

Interplay Between Reading Tasks, Reader Variables and Unknown Word Processing

Adina Levine and Thea Reves
Bar-Ilan University, Israel



The study was set up to answer the following questions:
  1. To what extent are the reader's word-treatment strategies task-dependent?
  2. To what extent are word-treatment strategies dependent on the reader's reading profile?
The subjects of the study were 42 students of an EAP (English for Academic Purposes) advanced reading comprehension course. The following instruments were adopted for the study: a word-treatment experiment, an open questionnaire, self-observation reports (verbal protocols), text-summary and verbatim translation into L1.

In the word-treatment experiment, the subjects were asked to read a text for global and close reading comprehension and to underline words unknown to them by indicating which of the three categories they belonged to:

  1. words they did not need for the comprehension of the text;
  2. words the meaning of which they could guess, so that their comprehension of the text was not impeded;
  3. words they had to look up in the dictionary in order to be able to go on reading and comprehending the text.
"Reading Profile" of each subject was composed of information obtained from a Personal Background Questionnaire, which specifically addressed individual reading habits in the L1, in the FL and/or in additional languages; reader's L1; age of beginning to read in L1 and other languages; type of texts read in L1 and in other languages.

The results of the study confirm that word treatment strategies are undoubtedly dependent on the type of the [-1-] reading task and to some extent also on the reader's reading profile. Readers whose reading habits and problem solving abilities are more developed and whose inferencing skills are more alert, are also more self- confident vis-a-vis the unknown words in the text; they resort to the dictionary mainly to verify their own inferences.

Keywords: reading, strategies, comprehension, ESL, vocabulary

Table of Contents Go to Full Article TESL-EJ Main Page