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The Psychology of Word Meanings by Paula J. Schwanenflugel

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7Beyond the Instrumentalist Hypothesis: Some Relationships Between Word Meanings and Comprehension

Steven A. StahlUniversity of Georgia

That vocabulary knowledge is strongly related to reading comprehension is among the most robust findings in the reading literature. From research in areas as diverse as readability (Dale & Chall, in press) and psychometrics (Thorndike, 1973–74), extremely strong correlations have been reported between measures of word knowledge and measures of comprehension. In a paper that had a strong influence on the resurgence of interest in vocabulary knowledge, Anderson and Freebody (1981) proposed three hypotheses to explain these correlations.

The most direct was an instrumentalist hypothesis, which proposes that ...

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