6 junio, 2024

Inferential reading: what it is, characteristics and examples

What is inferential reading?

The inferential reading It is one that goes beyond the literal meaning of a text, placing it in context with other works and with its historical time, deducing elements such as the author’s intention, ideas and thoughts that emerge from reading, previous and subsequent influences, etc.

There are various levels of reading: the first is usually literal, such as the news, communications or scientific articles, which generally propose an objective or denotative exposition. Although in practice, no text escapes an inferential reading.

Even when reading a scientific article, it is possible to infer what theories or line of research the author is following, what he intends to demonstrate with his study, and what its consequences could be.

Inferential reading is a test of linguistic competence (we understand what we are reading), and reading comprehension (we understand the context and implications of what we are reading).

Characteristics of inferential reading

Helps us interpret and evaluate the text

Although evaluation is a characteristic of critical reading, inferential reading helps us judge the material read and relate it to other texts that are similar or related by content, form, or by branches of knowledge or communication to which it belongs.

Assumes prior knowledge of the reader

Inferential reading is possible because the reader has at least some prior knowledge regarding the content of the text. For example, the reader of the iliad knows before starting the reading that it is an epic poem of Greek literature, about a moment of the Trojan War and in which gods and men participate.

The intention of the author can be deduced

The inferential reading allows deducing the author’s purpose when writing a text, his ideology and what he intends to demonstrate. For example, one of the obvious goals of the Quixoteby Miguel de Cervantes, is to parody novels of chivalry and contrast bookish fiction with reality.

It is an active way of reading

Inferential reading is active to the extent that the reader interacts with the text, by comparing what he knows with what he is reading, and is opposed to passive or literal reading, where the reader limits himself to receiving the information he is reading, without questioning or interpreting.

Generate new knowledge

Inferential reading, by relating what we know to the information we are reading, generates new knowledge, and also new questions.

Requires mastery of the language and professional jargon

Inferential reading is also based on a basic command of the language in which a text is developed, of regionalisms or of the specialized terminology used in a text. For example, there are philosophy texts that use common words with different meanings, such as «being» or «nothing.»

The implicit and the explicit

The comprehension of the literal reading follows directly from the words of the text, while what is inferred or deduced is not directly written, but is understood, always in accordance with the competence and capacity of the reader.

The abductive inferential reading

It is the one that leads us to propose hypotheses or theories to explain what happens in the text, and it is very common when reading detective novels, mystery novels, or exposing criminal cases or the results of political or sporting events.

Examples of inferential reading

“In August, in the middle of a Taliban offensive, the US army is withdrawn definitively from Afghanistan”

The inferential reading of this news: that the longest war in which North American troops have participated, 20 years, is going to end, at least for them; that it is not a victory, and that once again the Afghans have driven off theoretically more powerful invading armies (Britain, Soviet Union, and now European and American forces).

«When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there.»

It is the complete text of Augusto Monterroso’s story «The Dinosaur», considered the shortest story in the world, and from this short line it can be inferred the existence of a character who had a nightmare, that there was a dinosaur in it, and that he himself it is present in wakefulness when the character awakens. It belongs to the genre of fantastic literature.

“The albiceleste defeat the verdeamarela despite two red cards”

The inferential reading of this imaginary headline presupposes a previous knowledge of soccer, and of the Latin American teams of this sport. The albiceleste is the Argentine team, the verdeamarela is the Brazilian team and two red cards indicate that two players from the Argentine team were expelled, and still won.

“The Miami tragedy has left 24 dead and more than 120 missing”

For readers who follow current news, it is clearly about the collapse of the Champlain Towers South building, in Miami, in June 2021. From this it can also be inferred that the list of deceased will continue to grow, and that it is a story Developing.

«Everything passes and everything remains, / but ours is to pass, / to pass by making paths, / paths over the sea»

These famous verses by the poet Antonio Machado, popularized by the singer Joan Manuel Serrat, tell us about the passing of all human existence, about mortality and the oblivion that awaits us (“paths over the sea”).

«What is a ghost?» Stephen asked. A man who has faded to the point of being impalpable, due to death, due to absence, due to a change in customs”

This fragment of Ulisesby James Joyce, became famous in Spanish thanks to its inclusion in the Anthology of Fantastic Literature, by Jorge Luis Borges, Adolfo Bioy Casares and Silvina Ocampo. In it Joyce plays with the idea of ​​identifying the death and disappearance of people from relationships or social groups.

“In the same rivers we enter and do not enter, [pues] we are and we are not [los mismos]”

This phrase by Heraclitus of Ephesus, from 2,600 years ago, is one of the most famous philosophical phrases in the history of thought, although its best-known version is that of Plato: «you cannot enter the same river twice.» It points out that we cannot go back to what happened, and that even we are permanently changed.

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