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Modern English Education, Vol. 12, No.4, Winter 2011

Korean High School Students’ Vocabulary Knowledge, Inferencing Abilities, and Reading Comprehension Abilities Hye Eun Cho
Korea University Cho, Hye Eun. (2011). Korean high school students’ vocabulary knowledge, inferencing abilities, and reading comprehension abilities. Modern English Education, 12(4), 90-106. The study investigates the relationship among students’ general vocabulary knowledge, their local and global inferencing abilities, and their reading comprehension abilities. It used quantitative methods of analysis to investigate what factors have a significant effect on the reading comprehension abilities of 32 Korean first grade high school students. To assess students’ vocabulary knowledge, local and global inferencing abilities, and reading comprehension abilities, PPVT (Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test), a pseudo-word meaning inferencing tool, and KPSAT (Korea Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test) inferencing test items, and KPSAT reading comprehension test scores were used. The findings showed that vocabulary knowledge, local and global inferencing abilities, and reading comprehension abilities had a statistically significant correlation. In spite of the significant relationship, vocabulary knowledge did not have the strongest relationship with students’ reading comprehension abilities. Simple regression analyses showed that vocabulary knowledge, local and global inferencing abilities explained reading comprehension abilities when other variables were not controlled. However, the predictive power of vocabulary knowledge was lost when local and global inferencing abilities were controlled. Different predictors of Korean high school students’ reading comprehension abilities based on their English proficiency were shown in this study. Some pedagogical implications are suggested. [general vocabulary knowledge/ inferencing abilities//predictor of reading comprehension abilities/어휘능력/ 유추능력/영어독해능력 예측인자]

Acquiring vocabulary knowledge is one of the basic elements to comprehend a given text. It is obvious that readers may have a hard time when reading a text with too many unknown words. That is one of the reasons many Korean students put their efforts into

Korean High School Students’ Vocabulary Knowledge, Inferencing Abilities… 91 learning as many words as possible in order to improve their English reading comprehension abilities. They believe that their reading comprehension abilities will improve by increasing vocabulary knowledge. This is true for learners of a new language. Researchers have estimated the amount of vocabulary knowledge needed for readers (Nassaji, 2004; Nation, 2001; Qian, 2002; Tran, 2006; Wallace, 2007). This means that readers have to possess vocabulary knowledge if they want to understand a text without difficulty. Vocabulary knowledge is essential for a reading task. Without vocabulary knowledge, readers have a hard time processing a given reading activity. When learners read a text, vocabulary is among the knowledge bases being employed. Vocabulary knowledge is necessary not only to understand a given text but also to guess the meaning of unknown words in context. When readers encounter unknown words in the text, they have to fill the gap with their linguistic and nonlinguistic knowledge. When inferring the meaning of unfamiliar words, there are many resources to which they may resort. For example, when guessing the meaning of unfamiliar words, using the vocabulary that they already know in the text helps readers to compensate for the meaning gap (Llinares, Leiva, Cartaya & St. Louis, 2008; Mezynski, 1983). Therefore, vocabulary knowledge can affect guessing abilities when readers do a reading task. Thus, research of vocabulary knowledge in reading comprehension has become of major interest within the field of foreign language learning. Some researchers have focused on how to teach vocabulary (Baumann, 2009;...
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