Gabrielatos, C. (1999). Inference: Procedures and implications for TEFL. Part 1: Background. TESOL Greece Newsletter 63, 15-20.

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Click the icon for Part 2. Examples and teaching implications:


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A unified and slightly revised version has been published as:


Gabrielatos, C. (2002). Inference: Procedures and implications for ELT. In R.P. Millrood (Ed.) Research Methodology: Discourse in teaching a foreign language (pp. 30-52). Tambov, Russia: Tambov State University Press.

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Inferencing (commonly referred to as ‘reading/ listening between the lines’) is essential for effective communication. Firstly, “discourse rarely provides us with a fully explicit description of a situation” (Eysenck, 1990: 224); therefore, we usually have to fill in the missing information (Clark & Clark, 1977: 96-98). Secondly, the conventional meaning of lexis is not always a clear indicator of the intended message of speakers/ writers.


But how is inferencing achieved? That is, how do we understand more than what is in the actual words, or something different from what the words seem to mean? What knowledge and clues do we use? What thinking processes take place in our minds?


In this part I will discuss the clues given by speakers/writers and the clues and thinking processes used by listeners/readers in order for successful inferencing to take place. This outline will draw from Pragmatics, Discourse Analysis and Psycholinguistics. In the second part (next issue) I will present and comment on examples of how those clues can be exploited successfully for effective communication to take place. Then, I will discuss implications for the learning/ teaching of English as a foreign language.


Key words


Inference, implicature, English language teaching, language teaching methodology, EFL, ESL, ELT, TESOL.


Relevant details


This paper is based on my conference paper entitled ‘Inference: How it works’, given at the 16th International Publishers’ Exhibition, Athens, 9 May 1999, as well as RSA/Cambridge Diploma sessions on Discourse Analysis and TEFL I taught at PROFILE (1994-1999).



Related articles by the same author


Gabrielatos, C. (1992). Teaching communication and interaction strategies: An action research project with Greek teenagers at intermediate level. Project submitted in partial fulfillment of the RSA/Cambridge Diploma for Overseas Teachers of English.

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Gabrielatos, C. (1993). Learning how to fish: Fostering fluency and independence. TESOL Greece Newsletter 38, 23-26.

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