Concept of Vocabulary Mastery

Concept of Vocabulary  Mastery

            Vocabulary is one of the language aspects which should be learnt. Learning it is important because in order to be able to speak, write, and listen learners have to know vocabulary first. A person said to „know‟ a word if they can recognize its meaning when they see it (Cameron, 2001: 75). It means that in

learning vocabulary learners have to know the meaning of it and also understand and can use it in sentence context.

            According to John (2000: 16), vocabulary is knowledge of knowing the meanings of words and therefore the purpose of a vocabulary test is to find out whether the learners can match each word with a synonym, a dictionary – tape definition, or an equivalent word in their own language. In learning vocabulary automatically they have to know the meaning of words themselves and can use it in sentences. In brief, vocabulary mastery can be defined as a number of vocabulary (words) in a language which contains information about its meaning, form, and usage in context of communication. It is the basic knowledge that students should master first before mastering English. Vocabulary learning is a principal issue for English learning because it comprises the basic building blocks of English sentences.

            The vocabulary mastery is not a spontaneous process which is easy to be done. The process of vocabulary mastery begins when someone is still an infant. Basically, the baby‟s first language comes from the mother tongue. They will master the vocabulary through the simple words by listening to the words which are uttered by someone else. It is known that English vocabulary learning cannot run successfully without English ability (English skills) because both of them are very important in English teaching and learning process.

                The students cannot do well in comprehension without large vocabulary, for the passages and questions involve a range of words much wider than that of daily conversation. To make the discussion clearer, Harmer‟s opinion can be added. In his book, Harmer (2001: 16) says that there are some aspects that have to be discussed in vocabulary, namely: word meaning (synonym, antonym, connotation, and denotation), extending word use such as idioms, word combination or collocation, and the grammar of words which comprises noun, verb, adjective, and adverb.

a. Meaning

            The meaning can be classified according to the form they attach to. It can be classified into three forms: lexical meaning, morphological meaning, and syntactic meaning. Lexical meaning is the meaning that attaches to words as word. For example, the meaning of a building for human habitation that attaches to house is lexical meaning. Morphological meaning is the meaning that attaches to morpheme. Morpheme is the smallest unit that carries information about meaning or function. And the meaning that attaches to the word arrangement in a sentence is the syntactic meaning. A word meaning can also be defined by its relationship to other words. One should also know the denotation and connotation of a word in order to know the negative or positive meanings that occur in the word.

1) Synonym

            The term synonymy derives from Greek: syn- + -nymy. The two parts mean “same and name”. Synonymy deals with sameness of meaning, more than one word having the same meaning, alternatively the same meaning being expressed by more than one word. In other words, synonym is words whose denotation is the same but has different connotation.

2) Antonym

            Antonym is the opposite of meaning. It derives from Greek, “ant- and - nymy”, the two parts mean “opposite + name”. Antonym deals with oppositeness of meaning. Antonyms are not differentiated for formality or dialect or technicality; antonyms occur within the same style, dialect, or register.

3) Denotation

            Denotative meaning is called as some terms such as den notational meaning, cognitive meaning, conceptual meaning, ideational meaning, referential meaning, or proportional meaning. This is called dennotational, referential, conceptual, or ideational because the meaning refers to a certain referent, concept, or idea from reference. Denotative meaning is also called cognitive meaning because the meaning concerns with consciousness or knowledge.

4) Connotation

            Connotation is more complicated than denotation. Connotation is feeling and emotion that occurs within a word. Thus, it can be said that connotation is denotative meaning which is stretched. In other words, connotation is the feeling and emotion associated with a meaning.

b. Use

            According to Nation (2001:1), there are some ways to draw the attentions to the use of words by quickly showing the grammatical pattern the word fits into (countable/uncountable, transitive/intransitive, etc.), giving a few similar collocates, mentioning any restrictions on the use of the word (formal, informal, impolite, only used with children, etc.), and giving a well-known opposite or a well-known word describing the group or lexical set it fits into.

c. Spelling

            Spelling is the writing of a word or words with the necessary letters and diacritics present in an accepted standard order and an arrangement of letters that form a word or part of a word; the process of forming words by putting letters together.

            According to Ur (1996: 60) there are some important points that should be considered when teaching vocabulary that is form (pronunciation and spelling). The learners have to know what a word sound is like (its pronunciation) and what it looks like (its spelling).

d. Pronunciation

            According to Hewings (2004:3), pronunciation of a language is the main components of speech which combine together. These components range from the individual sounds that make up speech, to the way in pitch (the rise and fall of the voice is used to convey meaning). Pronunciation can be said as the act of uttering with articulation; the act of giving the proper sound and accent; utterance; as, the pronunciation of syllables of words; distinct or indistinct pronunciation. It is a way in which language is spoken. It includes segmental feature, vowel, and the intonation patterns. The listeners are supposed to apply them well

and correctly.

            According to Ur (1996: 60), there are some important points that should be considered when teaching vocabulary that is form (pronunciation and spelling). The learners have to know what a word sound is like (its pronunciation) and what it looks like (its spelling). These are fairly obvious characteristics and the words will be perceived by the learners when encountering the items for the first time. From the definitions above, it can be inferred that learners should master the words of the language because language consists of words. It is in order to be able to use the language approximately. Having mastered a large number of words, they will be able to express their ideas in the language approximately.


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