The comprehensibility of spoken discourse is affected by a speaker's semantic competence. For example, an inadequately developed semantic network restricts flexibility and creativity of expressive language. As a result, inappropriate word choices may be made that can adversely affect message clarity and cohesiveness. In order to enhance semantic productivity, language instruction should include a focus on word meanings and word relationships.
Instruction may address explicit knowledge or understanding of words and word relationships, including core and expanded meanings. This may include a discussion of Latin and Greek prefixes, suffixes, and roots.
Word Category Instruction
Instruction may focus on the classification of words into base, subordinate and superordinate categories. The intent of such instruction is to expand a student’s semantic knowledge and his/her utilization of that knowledge when expressing information. The following examples show an instructor probing a student's classification of various items.
As mentioned above, the cohesiveness of a text influences message comprehensibility. A variety of structural and lexical devices are used to achieve textual cohesion, one of which is referent specification. Students should learn to analyze the syntactic and pragmatic factors that effect the introduction and ongoing referral to referents, including characters in a story. The specification of referents influences how well a listener can follow and understand spoken discourse.
Students often need instruction in producing and comprehending literal vs extra-literal meanings. This is particularly true of idiomatic expressions.
This clip shows an international student focusing on idioms associated with her relaying of the surprise birthday party story.
For international students, it is also helpful to compare everyday language in America and in their country.