How to guess Word Meaning

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Unit 2
Guessing Meaning of 
Vocabulary from Context

Input
In order to understand what you are reading from an English text, you need to guess the meaning of unfamiliar words (words you do not know) from the context. This will help you read faster and easier. Do Exercise 1 before studying how you can guess the meaning of vocabulary from context.
Exercise 1 Find the meaning of the underlined word in each sentence. Choose the best answer for each question.

1.  She had often come into conflict with her mother-in-law.

a) announcement b) attainment c) argument

2.  The old woman’s blunt questions embarrassed her, making her momentarily tongue-tied.

a) emit b) ashamed c) loathe

3.  We just need a couple more chairs so everyone can sit down.

a) one b) two c) three

4.  Please, Uncle Jack, give me a piggyback!
a) a ride on someone back or shoulder
b)  a small bag
c)  people who arrived to settle in Bangkok 2000

5.  Ladda does not like to eat papaya or carrots, which is high in vitamin A, so she lacks it. Her mother keeps telling her that an inadequate supply of vitamin A can lead to blindness.

a) too big b) not enough c) full
How many did you get right from Exercise 1? _________
Language Focus
Now you will learn how to guess the meaning of unfamiliar words or new words by looking around the words to find clues. These clues will help you to find their meanings; then you will better understand what you are reading. There are many ways to help you guess the meaning of unfamiliar words from the context. Read the explanation below and study the examples.
1. Definition
A definition gives the meaning of words. The writer may use words, phrases, or statements to define something. The writer will use key words, or signal words to identify a definition so you need to look for them. See examples of key words below.
 
Key words
is/are means/mean
is/are called what this means is
is/are known as consist of
is/are defined as refer to
is/are described as may be seen as

e.g.

1. Inflation is a rise in the general level of prices you pay for things you buy.

an unfamiliar word = inflation
signal word = is
the definition = a rise in the general level of prices you pay for everything you buy.

2. Someone who explores and studies caves is known as a spelunker.

an unfamiliar word = spelunker
signal words = is known as
definition = someone who explores and studies caves

Exercise 2 Use signal words as your clues to find the meaning of the underlined words. Circle signal words and write their meaning in the space provided.

1.  The encyclopedia defines astrology as “the ancient art or science of divining the fate and future of human beings from indications given by the positions of stars and other heavenly bodies.”
astrology means______________________________________

2.  Sales literature means printed matters that contain information on the goods.
Sales literature means_________________________________

3.  The part at the back of the car used for holding luggage is called the car boot in United Kingdom, whereas Americans would refer to this as the car’s trunk.
car boot means______________________________________
 

2. Restatement
The writer may use other words, phrases, or sentences to provide the meaning of difficult words. We call this restatement; the writer describes it again or in a different way. Signal words for restatement are in the “Key words box” below.
 
Key words
or
that is to say
in other words
i.e. or that is

e.g.

The surface of Africa consists mainly of plateaus, or large flat areas, although these occur at different levels.

an unfamiliar word = plateaus
signal word = or
meaning = large flat areas

Exercise 3 Use signal words as your clues to find the meaning of the underlined words. Circle signal words and write the meaning in the space provided.

1. According to Indian custom, a great dowry of money and objects is given to the bridegroom, in other words, it is a dot.
dot = ______________________________________

2. There are several types of aerosol cans. Simple ones contain a liquefied gas, called the propellant, in which material is dissolved, i.e., melt.
dissolved =__________________________________

3. Our youth nowadays should not engage in intoxicating things such as alcohol, cigarettes, and tranquilizers, that is to say, they should not ingest them.
engage =___________________________________
 

3. Punctuation marks
Punctuation is used to describe the meaning of unfamiliar words. The writer will write unfamiliar words and then use punctuation, words, phrases, or sentences to explain the meaning of the new words. Such punctuation is in the “Key words box” below.
 
 
Key words
, commas
, , appositive
( ) parentheses
? ? dashes
; semicolon
: colon

e.g.

Full-color pictures are printed using only black and three colors: yellow, cyan (a light blue) and magenta (a light purple).

an unfamiliar word = cyan and magenta
signal punctuation = ( )
meaning : cyan = a light blue and magenta = a light purple

The use of computers to handle text, or word processing, was foreseen in the 1950s.

an unfamiliar word = handle text
signal punctuation = , ,
meaning : handle text = word processing

Exercise 4 Use signal words as your clues to find the meaning of the underlined words. Circle signal words and write the meaning in the space provided.

1. Both facsimile (known as fax) and electronic mail (email) are ways of sending documents.
Facsimile =______________________________________

Electronic mail =__________________________________

2. An FM radio DJ (disk jockey) broadcasts over the airwaves.
DJ =___________________________________________

3. Infection ? becoming ill through contact with bacteria ? of the respiratory system such as the nose, the throat, and the chest is among the most common of all diseases.
Infection =______________________________________
 

4. Examples
Examples help us to understand the meaning of new words. See key words or signal words used for showing examples in the “Key words box”.
 
Key workd
such as
like
for example, …
for instance
is / are

e.g.

Use navigation buttons, such as, the “Next” button, the “Previous” button, the “Menu” button, and the “Exit” button, to go back and forth or jump to other topics while you are using your English software.

unfamiliar words = navigation buttons
signal word = such as
meaning = buttons on computer program that are used for turn on pages

Exercise 5 Use signal words as your clues to find the meaning of the underlined words by choosing the best answer for each question. Circle signal words.

1. Some people in the North of Thailand do wickerwork, for example, they make elephants, turtles, plates, beds, and chairs, from teak trees for earning money.

a) silver handicraft b) bronze handicraft
c) niello handicraft d) wood handicraft

2. The Savanna grasslands are the home of grazing animals such as elephants, giraffes, antelopes and zebras. Lions, leopards and hyenas also live there.

a) non-backbone animals b) meat-eating animals
c) invertebrate animals d) grass-eating animals

3. A tourist guide advised them to see the elephant round up. There was racing, colorful war procession, marching, kicking a ball and tug-of-war between men and elephants.

a) show b) breed
c) sleep d) born
5. Contrast
You can guess the meaning of new words by using signal words of contrast. They will show the opposite meaning of the new words. See key words or signal words of contrast in the “Key words box”.
 
Key words
but instead of even though in contrast to
yet in spite of although as opposed to
unlike despite however on the other hand
whereas fond of still provided that

e.g.

Althrough Dara and Vipa are very close friends but they are very different. Suda spends a lot of money to buy things while Vipa loves to economize.
 

a) spend more money b) save money
c) buy things more than before d) keep things in a safe place
Exercise 6 Use signal words as your clues to find the meaning of the underlined words by choosing the best answer for each question. Circle signal words.

1. Ladda was promoted to be the chief secretary of the manager of the company, whereas her colleague, Somechai, was penalized.

a) promoted b) punished
c) exiled d) rewarded

2. Although small pox has almost been eradicated. Malaria is prevalent in Kanchanaburee, Thailand. A policeman just died from the PF (Plasmodium Falsiparum) malaria last month.

a) destroyed completely b) common found
c) fear of disease d) furbish

3. The plane is scheduled to leave for Phuket at 7:00 am but the plane departure has been postponed for two hours. That is to say, it will leave at 9:00 am instead.

a) retard b) stop
c) extend d) went back
6. Similarity
You can guess the meaning of new words by using signal words of similarity. They will display the same meaning of the new words. See key words or signal words of similarity in the “Key words box”.
 
Key words
like similarly in the same way 
as the same as just as 

e.g.

Indonesia is producing Ford cars and trucks. Soon, Thailand and Vietnam will be producing the same products with, no doubt, the same quality.

What does the words “the same products” mean? ___________________________
What is your clue? ___________________________________________________
 

Exercise 7 Use signal words as your clue to find the meaning of the underlined words. Circle signal words and write the meaning in the space provided.

1. Learning should not be limited to the classroom or with teachers. We can learn by ourselves about things that are not taught by teachers. Similarly, “self-learning” is encouraged for our education system.
What does the words “self-learning” mean? __________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________

2. Thailand and South Korea have made a break-through in developing a new technology that enables high-speed Internet connections, just as phone service links are made efficiently through electric power lines. Both countries have joined hands to do business.
What do the words “high-speed Internet connections” mean? _____________________
_____________________________________________________________________
 

7. Surrounding words
If you cannot find any signal words or key words as stated before, you may look around new words or unfamiliar words and try to guess them. The surrounding words may help you to understand the new words. See examples below.
e.g.

Children are too young to understand that swallowing gum can cause medical problems and so they shouldn't be allowed to chew it, doctors say.

unfamiliar words: swallowing and chew
What do these words mean?
How do you guess their meaning?
 

Exercise 8 Find the meaning of the underlined word by choosing the best answer for each question.

1.  Professor Boonmee of the Thai Business Commerce School (TBC), Bangkok, had to do a presentation in Khonkaen and Bangkok on the same day, to be sure that he would be back to Bangkok on time, he bought a round trip ticket.

a) one way ticket b) two way ticket

2.  In Bangkok on Monday morning, most streets are very crowded, so Penporn came to school late because she was trapped in traffic.
 

a) blocked b) caught

3.  The accountant clerks are responsible to check for false signatures, thus they needed to verify all cheques with the original signature before paying the money.
 

a) fake b) true
8. Pictures
“A picture is worth more than a thousand words” (an old Chinese saying) so a picture can help you to guess the meaning of a new word. Look at the pictures below and choose the best answer to explain the pictures.
1.
Which is the best description for the above picture?
a) computer devices b) computer hardware c) a microcomputer system

2.

Which is the best description for the above picture?

a) Holiday on beach b) Beautiful beach c) Activity of people

Which is the best description for the above picture?

a) For Sale b) Equipment used in an office c) Instruments for you

9. Experience and background knowledge
Reading researchers confirmed that experience and background knowledge play an important role in reading comprehension. As EFL (English as a Foreign Language) students, you may read related Thai texts to gain knowledge before reading the English text. See example.
e.g.

Termites, ant-like insects, found in warm countries like Thailand, love to bite and eat most wood and paper. Once they start, they never stop until everything is gone or you stop them.

Look at the pictures below, which one is the termite? __________________________

 

Exercise 10 Find the meaning of the underlined word by choosing the best answer for each question.

1. Most Thais are Buddhists and they usually make merit by giving donations, listening to sermons, giving food, and meditating on religious days.

a) do good things b) work hard

2. Thailand has never been under the yoke of any other country. We are proud to have our own language, culture and tradition.

a) dependable b) ruled by
10. Imagination
You may try to use many strategies as stated previously to understand new words, but sometimes you still can’t understand. You can use your imagination in that case. Read the following passage and try to imagine how a father felt when his child got D or F grades.
Exercise 11 Read the passage below. Answer the questions that follow.

A father examined his son’s report card and suffered mild cardiac tremors as he saw a solid column of D and F grades. Outraged that a product of his genes could so disgrace the family, he confronted his son and said, “Dave, this just won’t do. I can’t tolerate these grades, and if you don’t show me an immediate turn-around, you’re going to be grounded!”

Do you think Dave got good grades or bad grades? ___________________________

Was Dave’s father happy or angry at his school result? ________________________

What is his father going to do with him? ____________________________________

Now, find the meaning of words below.
1) What does the words “suffering mild cardiac tremors” mean?

a) very angry b) about to die of a heart attack c) very sad

2) What does the words “disgrace” mean?

a) please b) shame c) disappoint

3) What does the words “tolerate” mean?

a) give b) borrow c) admit

4) What does the words “turn-around” mean?
a) complete change from a very bad situation to a good one
b) convert attitude from a positive one to a negative one
c) run around when you are unhappy

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