Vocabulary in Context
Taiwanese college/university freshman students usually confront frustration by the English texts they are assigned to study or read. One factor that causes the frustration is a bad habit they use to deal with the overwhelming vocabulary in the texts. Students tend to stop for every new word when they read. They are busy looking up new words in the dictionary. However, after writing down the Chinese meanings of the new words, students are already worn out. It is unlikely that they have the slightest idea of what the text is really about. One more drawback is that students usually fail in catching up with the reading/studying schedule. Still another flaw of this habit is that students fail to know how the new word is exactly used. They use the new word in terms of Chinese definition to make sentences. Therefore, they make a sentence like "Airplanes open faster than trains."
One way to help improve
the situation is to learn how to look for the context definitions of new
words. Four types of context clues can help:
Synonym or Restatement Clues
A synonym is an expression (a word or phrase) that means the same as the new word that you need to know. Synonym clues include expressions such as or, and, that is, that means, i.e., and in other words,orhelpful punctuation such as comma, dash, a set of parentheses, or colon. In addition, sometimes the writer does not use any of the clues listed here but he/she uses a pronoun to refer back to the vocabulary. In such cases, we say that the writer is using a restatement clue. In the following sentences, the boldfaced parts in blue alert you to the synonyms of the italicized words.
The sociology professor commented that
the ideas in my paper were too
When evaluating your classmates'
presentations, you should be more specific with
After you finish reading all the texts,
you have to give an oral presentation, i.e., oral
Many people are fighting obesity, or fatness, since obesity usually leads to coronary
Your home should be a haven, a safe place where you can relax.
Ms. Chang is a radical feminist—a person who proposes
women's rights and
A synonym is an expression（ a word or phrase）that means the same as the new word.
Logging industry has been accused of massacring, killing in great numbers of, rare
I'm leaving for Jerusalem on a quest: a search for the truth.
She had the audacity
to criticize her boss to his face. It was the
boldness and daring
In contrast to synonym, an antonym is an expression that means the opposite of another word. Once you see clue words such as but, although, though, while, unless, however, nevertheless, in contrast, on the other hand, differently, instead, asopposed to, except,andunlike, you can easily recognize the meaning of the new word. Study these examples:
against his instructor was insolent; however, he quickly became
As opposed to the spontaneity of
your composition, mine is rather contrived,
Instead of submitting a pragmatic
plan, Daniel handed in a proposal that is not
Although opera sounds serious to many people, it is actually full of vivacity.
In contrast to Mary's joyfulness, John's despondency really worries his parents.
Unless we can hold on to tangible evidence, we cannot file a law suit against him.
My room is clean and neat. On the other hand, my brother's room is a scene of chaos.
Love is "quiet
understanding and mature acceptance of imperfection," while
Sometimes a writer gives an example or examples in the context of a word. The example(s) may help when the word is new to you or when the word expresses a very sophisticated idea. Expressions like such as, for instance, for example, take … for example, or punctuation like colon or semi-colon are all example clues you have to pay attention to. Consider these examples:
After the game, the
audience created havoc; e.g.,
throwing chairs, banging on doors,
Many species went extinct
for unknown reasons. For example,
dinosaurs no longer
To make delicious
Mexican food, you have to use various spices: jalapeno, black
After the earthquake,
victims desperately needed supplies such
as water, food,
You can also study meanings of words by examining causal relationship. Clues that point to the causal relationship are: because, since, therefore, consequently, in consequence, as a result, factor, and a/the reason for. Study the following examples:
The death of the
dinosaurs has relevance to us, since
if we learn what caused their
There are no conclusive
answers to the questions because the
mechanism behind the
The reason why we are still unable to crack
the case is that there has been no new
The structure was remodeled
several times; therefore, we can no
longer see their
The sloppy construction
was one of the factors that caused exponential
deaths in the
After the catastrophe
happened, the government was somewhat slow to reaction; as a
Situation or General Knowledge Clues
To find out the meaning of a word in context, sometimes you have to resort to your common sense. Try to recall your knowledge or past experiences and you can come to terms with the task.
Many people were buried alive in the earthquake when their homes collapsed.
In the earthquake, many
victims were killed or injured and many children became
One of the rehabilitation
tasks after the earthquake is for the psychologists to see to
his beloved wife losing her life in the collapsed home had left to
One of the greatest pathos
in life is to lose all of the beloved family members in a
Many volunteers devote their time and money to help victims retain a normal life.
Water is rudimentary
to human beings for survival.