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Topic Familiarity and Lexical Inferential Strategies in Advanced Emirati ESL Learners

Klykova, Lyudmyla Vitaliyivna
A Master of Arts Thesis in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages by Lyudmyla Vitaliyivna Klykova Entitled, "Topic Familiarity and Lexical Inferential Strategies in Advanced Emirati ESL Learners," August 2008. Available are both Hard and Soft Copies of the Thesis.
The present study investigated the effect of background knowledge on lexical inferencing and which strategies advanced Emirati ESL learners used to help them infer the meanings of unfamiliar vocabulary items in context. The participants of the study were 30 advanced Emirati students of English aged between 14 and 15 years old at Al Ittihad Private School, Dubai, UAE. The data were quantitatively analyzed to examine the correct and incorrect number of inferences in two expository passages, one of which pertained to a more familiar topic and another to a less familiar topic. The post vocabulary questionnaire that included the students' self-reports was used to determine which strategies were used by the students to successfully infer the words. The findings supported the hypothesis that the topic familiarity would have a positive impact on lexical inferencing. There were substantially more correct inferences when reading about a more familiar topic compared to a less familiar topic. Having appropriate background knowledge may have helped learners to more efficiently direct attention to input while reading the more familiar story. The local and global context cues that activated the readers' syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic knowledge in constructing the meaning of the text were held in working memory and must have constrained ongoing textual interpretations, and in turn, form-meaning research paradigms, or that studied effects of topic familiarity and semantic richness on discrete sentence processing.
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