What's Meaning Got to Do With It: The Role of Vocabulary in Word Reading and Reading Comprehension

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There is at present no clear consensus as to the nature of the relations between oral vocabulary and specific literacy skills. The present study distinguished between vocabulary breadth and depth of vocabulary knowledge to better explain the role of oral vocabulary in various reading skills. A sample of 60 typically developing Grade 4 students was assessed on measures of receptive and expressive vocabulary breadth, depth of vocabulary knowledge, decoding, visual word recognition, and reading comprehension. Concurrent analyses revealed that each distinct reading skill was related to the vocabulary measures in a unique manner. Receptive vocabulary breadth was the only oral vocabulary variable that predicted decoding performance after controlling for age and nonverbal intelligence. In contrast, expressive vocabulary breadth predicted visual word recognition, whereas depth of vocabulary knowledge predicted reading comprehension. The results are discussed in terms of interrelations between phonological and semantic factors in the acquisition of distinct reading skills.

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