The Role of Lexical Inferencing and Morphological Instruction On EFL Learners' Reading Comprehension Development

Document Type : Research Paper


Bu Ali Sina University


This study investigated whether Lexical Inferencing (L1) and Morphological Instruction (MI) can significantly affect EFL learners’ reading comprehension, furthermore, it also examined their effects on the learners’ vocabulary retention over time. 60 homogeneous EFLlearnerswere randomly assigned to two experimental and a control groups. After the pre-test, participants of the first experimental group received lexical inferencing strategy training for six 45-minute sessions. The second experimental group was also provided with a morphological instruction for six 45-minute sessions, and as for the control group, the participants followed their regular reading comprehension course. After the treatment, two post-tests with a short time interval were administered to the three groups and the obtained data were fed to different statistical tests to spot the probable differences among the three groups’ first post-test performance as a measure of their learning differences and the second post-test performance as a measure of the learners’vocabulary retention differences over time. Results of the paired t-tests showed that lexical inferencing instruction had a statistically significant effect on EFL learners’ reading comprehension development. On the other hand, it was found that morphological instruction had no statistically significant effect on EFL learners’ reading comprehension development. The ANOVA analyses revealed that there was no statistically significant difference between the effects of lexical inferencing and morphological instruction on EFL learners’ reading comprehension development. Furthermore, no significant difference was found between the effects of lexical inferencing and morphological instruction on EFL learners’ reading comprehension development over time. 


Alderson, J. C. (2000). Assessing Reading. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Anderson, R. C., & Freebody, P. (1983). Reading comprehension and the assessment and acquisition of word knowledge. In B. Hutson (Ed.), Advances in reading/language research: A research annual (pp. 231–256). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
Asgharzade, M., Rahimy, R., & Kalhor, O. P. (2012). The Effect of Explicit Morphological Practice on the Reading Comprehension Abilities of Iranian Intermediate Level English Language Learners. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 2(8), 1668-1677.
Bauer, L., & Nation, P. (1993). Word families. International Journal of Lexicography, 6(4), 253-279.
Bellomo, T. S. (2009). Morphological analysis as a vocabulary strategy for L1 and L2 college preparatory students. TESL-EJ, 13(3), 1-27.
Bengeleil, N. F., & Paribakht, T. S. (2004). L2 reading proficiency and lexical inferencing by university EFL learners. Canadian Modern Language Review/La Revue canadienne des languesvivantes, 61(2), 225-250.
Bromley, K. (2004). Rethinking vocabulary instruction. The Language and Literacy Spectrum, 14, 3-12.
Carlisle, J. F. (1995). Morphological awareness and early reading achievement. Morphological aspects of language processing, 189-209.
Carlisle, J. F. (2003). Morphology matters in learning to read: A commentary. Reading Psychology, 24(3-4), 291-322.
Carlisle, J. F. (2007). Fostering morphological processing, vocabulary development, and reading comprehension.  In R. K. Wagner, A. E. Muse & K. R. Tannenbaum (Eds.), Vocabulary acquisition: Implications for reading comprehension (pp. 78-103). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Chall, J. S. (1987). Two vocabularies for reading: Recognition and meaning. In M. McKeown, & M. Curtis (Eds.), The nature of vocabulary acquisition (pp. 7-17). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Association.
Clarke, D. F., & Nation, I. S. P. (1980). Guessing the meanings of words from context: Strategy and techniques. System, 8(3), 211-220.
Comer, W. J. (2012). Lexical Inferencing in Reading L2 Russian. Reading in a Foreign Language, 24(2), 209-230.
Dalton, B., & Grisham, D. L. (2011). eVoc strategies: 10 ways to use technology to build vocabulary. The Reading Teacher, 64(5), 306-317.
Daphne, M. (2012). Read this! Intro students’ book: Fascinating stories from the content areas. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Diaz, I. (2010). The effect of morphological instruction in improving the spelling, vocabulary, and reading comprehension of high school English language learners (ELLs) (Doctoral dissertation), Retrieved from Pro Quest Dissertations and Theses, Accession Order No. AAT 3405091.
Droop, M., & Verhoeven, L. (2003). Language proficiency and reading ability in first‐and second‐language learners. Reading Research Quarterly, 38(1), 78-103.
Farsi, B. (2008). Morphological awareness and its relationship to vocabulary knowledge and morphological complexity among Omani EFL University students. Unpublished master’s thesis, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia.
Fraser, C. A. (1999). Lexical processing strategy use and vocabulary learning through reading. Studies in second language acquisition, 21(02), 225-241.
Gao, H. (2012). A quantitative study into Chinese EFL learners’ lexical inference ability and strategy use in EFL reading. Linguistics, Culture & Education, 1(1).58-77.
Gillette, B. (1994). The role of learner goals in L2 success. In J. P. Lantolf & G. Appel (Eds.), Vygotsky approaches to second language research (pp.195–213). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Goodman. (1971). Psycholinguistic  universals in reading process. In  P. Pimsleur  & T. Quinn (Eds.), The Psychology of Second Language Learning (pp.135-142). Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press.
Gu, Y., & Johnson, R. K. (1996). Vocabulary learning strategies and language learning outcomes. Language learning, 46(4), 643-679.
Haastrup, K. (1991). Lexical Inferencing procedures or talking about words. Tübingen: Gunter Narr.
Hirsh, D., & Nation, P. (1992). What vocabulary size is needed to read unsimplified texts for pleasure? Reading in a foreign language, 8(2),689-696.
Hu, H. C. M., & Nassaji, H. (2014). Lexical inferencing strategies: The case of successful versus less successful inferences. System, 45, 27-38.
Huckin, T., & Bloch, J. (1993). Strategies for inferring word meaning in context: A cognitive model. In T. Huckin, M. Haynes, & J. Coady (Eds.) Second language reading and vocabulary learning (pp. 153-178). Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Kaivanpanah, S., & Alavi, S. M. (2008). The role of Linguistic knowledge in word-meaning inferencing. System,36(2), 172-195.
Kaivanpanah, S., & Moghaddam, M. S. (2012). Knowledge sources in EFL learners’ lexical inferencing across reading proficiency levels. RELC Journal, 43(3), 373-391.
Kieffer, M. J., & Lesaux, N. K. (2007). Breaking down words to build meaning: Morphology, vocabulary, and reading comprehension in the urban classroom. The Reading Teacher, 61(2), 134-144.
Kieffer, M. J., & Lesaux, N. K. (2008). The role of derivational morphology in the reading comprehension of Spanish-speaking English language learners. Reading and Writing, 21(8), 783-804.
Kieffer, M. J., & Lesaux, N. K. (2012). Direct and indirect roles of morphological awareness in the English  reading comprehension of native English, Spanish, Filipino, and Vietnamese speakers. Language Learning, 62(4), 1170-1204.
Kirby, J. R., Deacon, S. H., Bowers, P. N., Izenberg, L., Wade-Woolley, L., & Parrila, R. (2012). Children’s morphological awareness and reading ability. Reading and Writing, 25(2), 389-410.
Laufer, B. (1991). The development of L2 lexis in the expression of the advanced learner. The Modern Language Journal, 75(4), 440-448.
Laufer, B. (1997). The lexical plight in second language reading: Words you don’t know, words you think you know, and words youcan’t guess. Second language vocabulary acquisition: A rationale for pedagogy1, 20-34.
Laufer, B., & Ravenhorst-Kalovski, G. C. (2010). Lexical threshold revisited: Lexical text coverage, learners’ vocabulary size and reading comprehension. Reading in a Foreign Language, 22(1), 15-30.
Marzban, A., & Hadipour, R. (2012). Depth versus breadth of vocabulary knowledge: Assessing their roles in Iranian intermediate EFL students’ lexical inferencing success through reading. Procedia-social and behavioral sciences, 46, 5296-5300.
Mondria, J. A., & Wit-de Boer, M. (1991). The effects of contextual richness on the guess ability and the retention of words in a foreign language. Applied Linguistics, 12(3), 249-267.
Mountain, L. (2005). Rooting out meaning: More morphemic analysis for primary pupils. The Reading Teacher, 58(8), 742-749.
Nagy, W. E. (1997). On the role of context in first and second language vocabulary learning. In N. Schmidt, Mc Carty, M. (Eds.), Vocabulary: Description, Acquisition, and Pedagogy (pp. 64-84). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 64–84.
Nagy, W. (2006). Why vocabulary instruction needs to be long-term and comprehensive. In E. H. Hiebert, M. L. Kamil (Eds.), Teaching and learning vocabulary: Bringing research to practice (pp.27-44). Erlbaum, Mahwah, NJ.
Nagy, W. E., & Anderson, R. C. (1984). How many words are there in printed school English?Reading Research Quarterly, 19, 304-330.
Nassaji, H. (2003). L2 vocabulary learning from context: Strategies, knowledge, sources, and their relationship with success in L2 lexical inferencing. TESOL Quarterly, 37(4), 645-670.
Nassaji, H. (2004). The relationship between depth of vocabulary knowledge and L2 learners’ lexical inferencing strategy use and success. Canadian Modern Language Review/La Revue Canadienne des LanguesVivantes,61(1), 107-135.
Nation, I. S. P. (1993). Vocabulary size, growth, and use. In R. Schreuder & B. Weltens (Eds.), The bilingual lexicon (pp.115-134). Amsterdam/ Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Nation, I. S. P. (2001). Learning vocabulary in another language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
O’malley, J. M., & Chamot, A. U. (1990). Learning strategies in second language acquisition. Cambridge University Press.
Oxford, R. L., & Nyikos, M. (1989). Variables affecting choice of language learning strategies by university students. Modern Language Journal, 73(3), 291-300.
Oxford, R. L., & Scarcella, R. C. (1994). Second language vocabulary learning among adults: State of the art in vocabulary instruction. System, 22(2), 231-243.
Paribakht, T. S. (2004). The role of grammar in second language learning processing. RELC, 35 (2), 149–160.
Paribakht, T. S., & Wesche, M. (1999). Reading and “incidental” L2 vocabulary acquisition. Studies in second language acquisition, 21(02), 195-224.
Paribakht, T. S., & Wesche, M. (2006). Lexical inferencing in L1 and L2: Implications for vocabulary instruction and learning at advanced levels. In H. Byrnes, H. Weger-Guntharp & K. Sprang (Eds.), Educating for advanced foreign language capacities: Constructs, curriculum, instruction, assessment (pp. 118–135). Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.
Qian, D. (2004). Second language lexical inferencing: Preferences, perceptions, and practices. In B. Laufer, P. Bogaards (Eds.), Vocabulary in a second language: Selection, acquisition and testing (pp.155-169). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 
Read, J. (2000). Assessing vocabulary. Cambridge: Cambridge university press.
Riazi, A., &  Babaei, N. (2008). Iranian EFL female students’ lexical inferencing and its relationship to their l2 proficiency and reading skill. The Reading Matrix, 8(1), 186-194.
Schmitt, N. (1997). Vocabulary learning strategies. In N. Schmitt, M. McCarthy (Eds.), Vocabulary: Description, Acquisition, and Pedagogy (pp.199-227). Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Schmitt, N. (2000). Vocabulary in language teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge university press.
Schmitt, N. (2008). Review article: Instructed second language vocabulary learning. Language Teaching Research, 12(3), 329-363.
Schmitt, N., & McCarthy, M. (Eds.). (1997). Vocabulary: Description, acquisition and pedagogy.  Cambridge: Cambridge university press.
Sritulanon, A. (2013). The effects of morphological instruction on reading abilities of low proficiency adult EFL learners at a university in Thailand. Learn Journal: Language Education and Acquisition Research Network, 1(1), 50-67.
Sternberg, R. J. (1987). Most vocabulary is learned from context. In M. G. McKeown & M. E. Curtis (Eds.), The nature of vocabulary acquisition (pp. 89-105). Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Tavakoli, M., & Hayati, S. (2011). The relationship between lexical inferencing strategies and L2 proficiency of Iranian EFL learners. Journal of Language Teaching and Research, 2(6), 1227-1237.
Tong, X., Deacon, S. H., Kirby, J. R., Cain, K., &Parrila, R. (2011). Morphological awareness: A key to understanding poor reading comprehension in English. Journal of Educational Psychology,103(3), 523.
Williams, R. (1985). Teaching vocabulary recognition strategies in ESP reading.The ESP Journal, 4(2), 121-131.
Zhang, D., & Koda, K. (2013). Morphological awareness and reading comprehension in a foreign language: A study of young Chinese EFL learners. System, 41(4), 901-913.
Zimmerman, B. J., & Pons, M. M. (1986). Development of a structured interview for assessing student use of self-regulated learning strategies. American Educational Research Journal, 23(4), 614-628.