Home > Strategies and Skill Development > Verbal Strategy Families > Verbal Inference > Literature Note - Verbal Inference

Verbal inference, as we are defining it, is essentially the ability to semantically interpret sentences, including drawing those inferences that are inherent in the meaning of the words in their sentence context. It thus includes the ability to recognize semantic relationships among words and phrases and to draw inferences that are logically necessary, while supporting the inference-making abilities that enable knowledge-based inferences at the conceptual level (clarification). Verbal inference strategies, as opposed to clarification strategies, involve the ability to recognize and reason with the literal meanings of words and sentences, without requiring the reader to make connections at the level of document macrostructure and cohesion.

Semantic knowledge and verbal inference appear to have strong connections to reading comprehension. The general situation, in which semantic knowledge and verbal inference function as essential prerequisites to full verbal comprehension of written texts, is outlined in studies such as those by Cain and Oakhill (1999, 2004), Oakhill (1984), and Yuill and Oakhill (1988). Nation and Snowling (1999) provided a particularly strong demonstration that pure semantic ability (e.g., the ability to recognize semantic rather than associative relationships among words) is associated with reading comprehension levels.

Cain, K., & Oakhill, J. (1999). Inference-making ability and its relation to comprehension failure in young children. Reading and Writing, 11(5-6), 489-503.

Cain, K., & Oakhill, J. (2004). Children's reading comprehension ability: Concurrent prediction by working memory, verbal ability, and component skills. Journal of Educational Psychology 96(1), 31–42.

Nation, K., & Snowling, M. J. (1999).Developmental differences in sensitivity to semantic relations among poor comprehenders: Evidence from semantic priming. Cognition 70(1), pp. B1-B13

Oakhill, J. (1984). Inferential and memory skills in children's comprehension of stories. British Journal of Educational Psychology 54(1), 31-39.

Yuill, N. & Oakhill, J. (1988). Effects of inference awareness training on poor reading comprehension. Applied Cognitive Psychology 2(1), 33-45.

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