ABSTRACT  The objectives of this research were to determine which strategies a reader of a foreign language uses to identify unknown words in context and if there is a hierarchy of application. Existing hypotheses concerning word identification strategies (graphic, syntactic, and semantic) are examined. In addition, recommendations are included concerning acquisition of skills which will allow the foreign language student to process unknown vocabulary independently.

Using the introspective technique, the interviewer elicited responses from the subject as he read from a script in which ten words had been deleted according to the cloze method and replaced with non-words. The subject's oral responses during his attempt to assign meaning provided clues to the strategies being used. This investigation revealed that one hundred Spanish-speaking (ESOL) university subjects, 17–24 years old, used at least ten word identification strategies while reading English in context: dictionary, guessing, graphemics, ignoring, intuition, morphemics, pronouncing, regressing, skipping, and syntax. Seven of the observed behaviors were statistically significant, and the order of application for the first three (pronouncing, skipping, and regressing) appears predictable.