Research Article

The Role of Glosses in L2 Incidental Vocabulary Acquisition in Reading


  • Xue Wang College of Foreign Languages, Ocean University of China, Qingdao, China, 266100


Incidental vocabulary acquisition is the primary way for second language learners to acquire vocabulary knowledge and adding glosses has been proven a great contributor to this process. Generally speaking, glosses refer to the translation equivalent words, L2 synonyms or brief L2 explanations of target words. This paper reviewed studies on the role of glosses in L2 incidental vocabulary acquisition in reading in terms of gloss languages, gloss types, gloss locations and gloss modalities. Findings indicate that 1) adding glosses is conducive to vocabulary acquisition; 2) effects of gloss languages are mediated by learners' L2 proficiency; 3) multiple-choice glosses are better than single-translation glosses; 4) multi-modal glosses are better than single-modal glosses. These findings support the Revised Hierarchical Model, the Involvement Load Hypothesis and the Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning. Future research should focus more on the measurement of productive knowledge, the measurement of the depth of vocabulary knowledge, the measurement standard of second language proficiency and the vocabulary learning process in reading.

Article information


International Journal of Linguistics, Literature and Translation

Volume (Issue)

5 (10)





How to Cite

Wang, X. (2022). The Role of Glosses in L2 Incidental Vocabulary Acquisition in Reading. International Journal of Linguistics, Literature and Translation, 5(10), 149–153.



Glosses; second language; incidental vocabulary acquisition; reading