Vocabulary Rules

1. Grammatical Class:

For two words to replace each other as synonyms, they both must belong to the same grammatical class, otherwise known as part of speech. Therefore, a noun must be given as synonym for another noun, a verb for another verb, and so on. NASCON rejects any word provided as synonym by a contestant if, even though the synonym belongs to the word family, or vocabulary group, of the given word, it deviates from the grammatical class. They must belong to the same class so that when the synonym is inserted in the place of the original word in a sentence, the sentence reads naturally correct.

Consider the following word family, for example:

Madness insanity , mental illness, derangement, dementia, lunacy, psychotic, maniac, unstable.

What do you think about the last there words in this set? They all concern madness quite all right. But psychotic and unstable are adjectives, not nouns, like madness. On the other hand, maniac, though a noun refers to a person, not madness itself.


2. Vocabulary Group:

Linguists often argue that no two English words mean exactly the same thing. However, they admit that every content word in English has another word that is nearest in meaning to it, and possibly some other words which have related meanings. All such words are members of the same vocabulary group. The rule is that a word can replace another only if the two words belong to the same vocabulary group. Words cannot replace each other if they merely belong to the same grammatical class but different vocabulary groups.

For example, the word talk, in its various senses, means speak, chat, chatter, gossip, prattle, babble, rattle on, blather; yak, gab, jaw, chew the fat; utter, say, voice,express, articulate, and so on. No one of these words can replace any word in the vocabulary group of sing, though talk and sing can both be verbs. Words in the vocabulary group of sing include croon, carol, trill, troll, intone, chorus; chirp, warble, chirrup, cheep, peep, etc.

NASCON judges discountenance any word provided as synonym to the given word if it does not belong to the vocabulary group of the given word but merely belongs to its grammatical class. It is thus strongly recommended that those contemplating NASCON competition meticulously study grammatical classes and vocabulary groups as treated in the Oxford Corpus.


3. Phrase -for -Word Replacement:

It is not always individual words that replace other words; phrases can also serve as synonyms provided that the requirements for such function are fulfilled. Basically, the phrase must tally with the word so perfectly that when the phrase is introduced to the gap from which the word is removed, the phrase is appropriate and the sentence is correct. Consequently, if one or two relevant words of the phrase are missing or unnecessary words are included in the phrase, NASCON judges reject it outright as synonym.

To illustrate, the verb presuppose may be used in the sense of require, or necessitate. An appropriate phrase for the verb in this sense is depend on. But where presuppose means presume or assume, an appropriate verb phrase as synonym is take it for granted or take it as read; no addition, no subtraction.

Note : Contestants need to be cautious at this stage. It is not advisable that they attempt to replace words with phrases if they are not absolutely sure of the lexical constituents of such phrases. No appeal will be entertained by NASCON should a contestant be marked down in the event of failure in the above area.


4. Sense of the Word for Replacement:

As established earlier, a word may have different senses and sub-senses. Sub-senses do not necessarily mean hyponyms, or specific meanings, or lower forms, of words in general use. A sub-sense is a subsidiary or less important, sense of a word defined in a dictionary or treated in a thesaurus. Sense itself refers to the larger meaning within a vocabulary boundary.

When a synonym is provided, it must harmonise with the particular sense of the word it replaces. Otherwise, when used in a sentence, the meaning of the sentence changes. It is extremely important to state here that the essence of using synonyms is to provide alternative word choice, and not to initiate alternative meaning or usage. The specific meaning of a sentence must not be jeopardized in the course of substituting any of its elements.

Consider the example of end as a noun. It has six major senses and at least five sub-senses. end as extremity cannot replace end as conclusion, as butt, as aim, as aspect, or as death.

Note : The question paper indicates the specific sense of the word for replacement by presenting it in a sentence, as in the case of spelling. Contestants do well to consider attentively the illustrative sentences.


5. Out-of-Thesaurus Synonyms:

Even though the thesaurus is a work based exclusively on vocabulary development and despite the undeniable fact that the Oxford Corpus is the largest single compendium of words in the realm of English, it does not claim to be a monopoly of English lexis. A word that is not found in the COED or COT may be found in another dictionary or thesaurus. However, for the sake of consistency, simplicity and affordability, NASCON’s official written authority remain the COED and COT. Thus, if the contestant provides a synonym that is not in the COT, at least it should be located in the COED. If it is not found in either of NASCON’s official reference works, it is rejected.

Note : Participating schools are given the combined volume of the COED and COT at the point of registration. Individual participants, for their part, should purchase the materials for private use: NASCON is not indebted to them in this respect.


6. Verbs Paradigms, Tenses and Aspects:

Verb paradigms are the various inflections of a verb (s, es, ies, en, ed, etc) occasioned by a change in tense (present, past or future) , aspect ( infinitive, perfective, progressive, etc) and number( first person singular/plural, second person and third person singular/plural) .For two verbs even in the same vocabulary group and sense to replace each other they must be of the same paradigm, tense and aspect. Thus, for example, present tense verbs must replace other present tense verbs, not past or future tense verbs, and so on. Also, a singular verb in the first person must replace another singular verb in the second person, such that, here again, when the synonym is inserted in the place of the original verb, the sentence reads correct. So, for example, watches may replace observes( not observe, observed or observing)

Note : NASCON does not offer a comprehensive table of English verbs and their various inflections, tenses, number, or aspects. Neither does it attempt to treat practical applications of these areas of English grammar. Traditional English (language) teachers have the responsibility of inculcating these values in their students/pupils. NASCON is preoccupied with tasking learners on development of cognitive learning skills.


7. Conduct of Contestants During Test:

Candidates in the vocabulary test room will be subjected to conditions similar to those that prevail in an ideal public examination hall. Invigilators of NASCON vocabulary test are polite, benevolent and dedicated workers who in no way or under any circumstance threaten the peace or safety of contestants. Contestants have no reason, therefore, to be unruly, indecorous or rebellious. A contestant’s conduct in the test room may decide whether he/she may continue in the completion or get evicted from it. Below is a set of codes governing the conduct of the vocabulary test.

a. No candidate shall impersonate anyone else.

b. No candidate shall be allowed into the hall after the test has commenced.

c. No talking between/among candidates shall be condoned once the test has commenced; candidates requiring clarification on any matter concerning the test shall talk ONLY to an invigilator.

d. No candidate shall enter the test hall with a dictionary, thesaurus, pager, telephone, or camera.

e. If a candidate wishes to use the gents or ladies during the test, he/she shall be accompanied by an invigilator of the same sex as the candidate. No extra time is granted the candidate in any such event.

f. All candidates are required to write their names, the name of their school and their registration number on their answer sheet and question paper before they start attempting the questions.

g. Where a candidate finds it difficult to read the test requirements or instructions owing to typographical error or unclear typing, the candidate may apply for a change of paper. No complaint shall be entertained in the above direction after the test.

h. All candidates in the test hall shall be in NASCON uniform and display their NASCON Identity Card. No candidate shall be allowed into the hall in the first place if he/she fails to fulfill this requirement.

i. The test, like the other stages of NASCON competition, shall be duly televised. No candidate shall solicit preferential coverage from the television crew.

j. No form of cheating is justifiable; candidates shall not enter the test hall with ready-made solutions or offer bribes to invigilators for permission to cheat.

k. Candidates shall be willing to submit their identity card, question paper or answer sheet for scrutiny by an invigilator; it is the invigilator’s right and responsibility to do so whenever it is deemed necessary.

l. Candidates shall stop writing as soon as they are asked to do so.

m. Candidates shall remain seated even after submitting their answer sheets. They shall leave the hall only when they are permitted to do so.

n. No candidate shall demand a retrieval of his/her answer sheet for whatever reason after it has been submitted.

Important note: There is a penalty for flouting any of the above regulations or for failing to fulfill any of the requirements outlined in this material. Such penalty ranges from reduction of marks/points to outright expulsion. All contestants thus do well to study this code carefully and abide by it. NASCON does not compensate any contestant who is evicted from the competition on established grounds, much more entertain protests or appeals from either evicted contestants or the general public.