Beyond Vocabulary: Pragmatic Factors in Reading Comprehension—Culture, Convention, Coherence and Cohesion


  • Marsha Bensoussan

    1. University of Haifa
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      Marsha Bensoussan (Ph.D., The Hebrew University of Jerusalem) is a Lecturer at the University of Haifa, Israel.


ABSTRACT  As important as vocabulary is in reading a foreign language, other factors also appear to be involved. Some of these additional factors are the reader's familiarity with conventions of written texts in the native and foreign languages, awareness of cultural differences between both languages, and knowledge of the macro- and micro-level structures of a text.

This paper examines evidence from different studies indicating problem areas in reading comprehension. Students' mistranslations from English to Hebrew were examined to diagnose difficulties in reading comprehension. Mistranslations and misinterpretations of illocutionary force, logical connectors, and modifiers indicated that many students were either unable to draw on a culturally appropriate memory schema to understand the texts or had preconceived notions about word meanings that dominated their interpretations and prevented them from correctly using contextual clues.