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Contrastive Semantics in Vocabulary Instruction

Don L. F. Nilsen
TESOL Quarterly
Vol. 10, No. 1 (Mar., 1976), pp. 99-103
DOI: 10.2307/3585943
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3585943
Page Count: 5
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Contrastive Semantics in Vocabulary Instruction
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Abstract

One of the important influences of structural linguistics on the teaching of foreign lanugages (including English as a foreign language) is the importance of linguistic context, and the resulting development of vocabulary materials in linguistic context exclusively. But the meanings of words are determined not only by how they relate to other words in particular sentences, but also by how they contrast with other words in various types of contrasting systems (hierarchies, cycles, matrices, processes, etc.) Context is viewed not as a way of providing the meaning of a word, but as a way of restricting the meaning to a small number of the total possible senses. Therefore, the development of the paradigmatic approach (vocabulary out of context in contrastive systems) is viewed as a prerequisite to the syntagmatic approach (vocabulary in context). This article attempts to show some of the ways that a paradigmatic approach to vocabulary instruction can be set up and used in bilingual or partially bilingual situations by working with a particular semantic area-English and Spanish clothing terms.

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