The challenge and the opportunity of lexical inferencing in language minority students

Daphna Shahar-Yames, Anat Prior

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Lexical inferencing from text is a powerful tool for vocabulary and reading comprehension enhancement. Lexical inferencing relies on the pre-requisite skills of reading and existing vocabulary, and is also linked to non-verbal inferencing abilities and reading comprehension. In this study, we examined whether Fifth-grade Russian-speaking language minority (LM) students might exhibit reduced lexical inferencing abilities in comparison to their native Hebrew-speaking (NH) peers, due to their reduced proficiency in the societal language. Participants completed a measure of lexical inferencing during text reading, and measures of underlying skills, including vocabulary, word reading accuracy, reading comprehension and non-verbal inferencing. As a group, LM students demonstrated comparable lexical inferencing abilities to those of their NH peers despite significantly lower vocabulary knowledge in vocabulary. Two explanations are suggested; first, although LM students had reduced vocabulary, they were nonetheless above the vocabulary threshold required for text comprehension. Second, the regression analyses revealed that non-verbal inferencing explained unique variance only in the LM group, demonstrating that they recruited language-external resources to support lexical inferencing. The current results show that lexical inferencing can serve as a powerful tool for promoting reading comprehension and vocabulary, domains that are points of weakness for language minority students.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1109-1132
Number of pages24
JournalReading and Writing
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements The authors thank Shira Bleicher, Moran Hatan and Ina Kandelis for research assistance and Nashchon Korem for help in data analyses. The current study was partly supported by the Edmond J. Safra Brain Research Center for the Study of Learning Disabilities.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature.


  • Language minority
  • Lexical inferencing
  • Reading comprehension
  • Vocabulary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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