Is Inferencing a Word?
A reader questions the use of the term inferencing:
I have seen inferencing used recently. It would suggest that inference is a verb. Shouldn’t it be inferring?
Inferencing is psycholinguistic jargon for “getting meaning from a text.” My spellchecker flags the word as a misspelling and neither the OED nor M-W has an entry for it. Dictionary.com offers this definition:
inferencing noun: (psycholinguistics) the practice of inferring the meaning of an unfamiliar word or expression from the meaning of familiar words occurring with it in a context together with one’s knowledge of or beliefs about the word.
Inferencing seems to mean what teachers used to call reading, a word that derives from the verb read:
read verb: to interpret or be able to interpret the written form of a language.
Inferencing has joined the vocabulary of obfuscation taught to prospective teachers in university departments of education. Here’s how one enthusiastic graduate student uses it on a lesson plan site:
I am currently working on my Masters. I decided to create a unit about inferencing because this is an area I struggled with last year. This unit is not just using inference; it is inferencing character, plot, theme, motive, using inference to figure out context clues, and answering inferential questions.
As far as I can tell, inferencing can mean inferring, interpreting, and “drawing conclusions on the basis of evidence.”
Here are some random examples from the Web:
Teaching inferencing to students with language impairment can be important, because they may find it difficult to generate implied meaning from text independently.—Educational resources site
This WPSU interactive The Detective’s Notebook Game is designed to get students to think about what they are reading and to answer questions that require inferencing.—PBS Learning Media
Have fun with your class inferencing about the family that this “trash” belongs to!—Teacher’s guide for reading a story.
Since we have no performance data on those that were declined, we must infer their performance, a topic in score development termed, appropriately, “reject inferencing.”—Credit Risk Modeling: Design and Application, 1998.
Understand the frequency with which the methods in your XOM are invoked by rules, particularly if you are doing lots of inferencing using the RETE algorithm.— IBM Operational Decision Management V8.0 Performance Tuning Guide
Bottom line: Inferencing is a word, but it is jargon that most speakers can probably do without.
infer verb: To draw a conclusion or inference; to reason from one thing to another.
inference noun: something that is inferred.
inferential adjective: of or pertaining to inference; involving or depending on inference; of the nature of inference.
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