Published online by Cambridge University Press: 13 August 2018
A reading experiment combining online and offline data evaluates the effect on second language learners’ reading behaviors and lexical uptake of three gloss types designed to clarify word meaning. These are (a) textual definition, (b) textual definition accompanied by picture, and (c) picture only. We recorded eye movements while intermediate learners of English read a story presented on-screen and containing six glossed pseudowords repeated three times each. Cumulative fixation counts and time spent on the pseudowords predicted posttest performance for form recall and meaning recognition, confirming findings of previous eye-tracking studies of vocabulary acquisition from reading. However, the total visual attention given to pseudowords and glosses was smallest in the condition with picture-only glosses, and yet this condition promoted best retention of word meaning. This suggests that gloss types differentially influence learners’ processing of novel words in ways that may elude the quantitative measures of attention captured by eye-tracking.
The authors would like to thank the editors and anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments on earlier versions of this article. We also acknowledge the financial support received by way of research grants from Victoria University of Wellington. Special thanks to Ross van de Wetering and Angus Chapman for their assistance with the collection of eye-tracking data and to Murielle Demecheleer for her assistance with the design of the reading materials used in the experiment and with the scoring of the posttests.