In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Second Language Vocabulary

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Edited Volumes and Special Issues
  • Researching Second Language Vocabulary
  • Second Language Vocabulary Assessment
  • Tests Designed to Measure Second Language Vocabulary Knowledge
  • Formulaic Language
  • Meta-Analyses of Second Language Vocabulary Studies

Linguistics Second Language Vocabulary
Stuart Webb
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 April 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0289


There have been an increasing number of studies investigating second language vocabulary over the last thirty years along with an increased range of topics related to the teaching and learning of second language words. Research has involved description and assessment of the different components of vocabulary knowledge, investigated the effectiveness of incidental and intentional vocabulary learning activities, examined variables that contribute to vocabulary learning, and looked at learners’ strategies in vocabulary learning and the tools (e.g., concordances, flash cards, dictionaries, word lists) that can be used for teaching and learning words. In recent years, there has also been increased interest on the teaching and learning of multi-word items such as collocations (e.g., take place, lose weight), idioms (e.g., jump the gun, kick the bucket), phrasal verbs (e.g., show off, pick up), and lexical bundles (e.g., one of the things, on the other hand). Although research will often examine the learning of individual words and sequences of words together, with the large volume of studies looking at formulaic language on its own, it is deservedly viewed as a separate research area (see the separate Oxford Bibliographies in Linguistics article “Formulaic Language”). However, because the teaching and learning of formulaic language also play a part in second language vocabulary learning, major works in this area will also be included in this bibliography.

General Overviews

There were relatively few studies of second language before the publication of Nation 1990. Its publication seemed to spur an interest in this area and the subsequent publication of several important books that provide comprehensive reviews of lexical studies. Nation 2001 and Nation 2013 provide the widest ranging overview of second language vocabulary with a focus on research, while Schmitt 2000, Schmitt and Schmitt 2020, Nation 2008, Folse 2004, Gardner 2013, and Webb and Nation 2017 provide general overviews of second language vocabulary focused on pedagogy.

  • Folse, Keith S. 2004. Vocabulary myths: Applying second language research to classroom teaching. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press.

    DOI: 10.3998/mpub.23925

    This book provides a general introduction to how research on second language vocabulary can be applied to pedagogy.

  • Gardner, Dee. 2013. Exploring vocabulary: Language in action. London: Routledge.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203798683

    This book provides a useful introduction to the teaching and learning of second language vocabulary with much discussion of how corpus-informed research applies to the teaching and learning of words.

  • Nation, I. S. P. 1990. Teaching and learning vocabulary. New York: Heinle and Heinle.

    Although somewhat out of date, this important book spurred much of the research and discussion of second language vocabulary that followed.

  • Nation, I. S. P. 2001. Learning vocabulary in another language. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139524759

    The seminal text on second language vocabulary and the most comprehensive single-authored book on the topic. There is now a more up-to-date second edition.

  • Nation, I. S. P. 2008. Teaching vocabulary: Techniques and strategies. Boston: Heinle.

    This book provides a comprehensive account of research that informs second language vocabulary pedagogy in a more reader friendly form than Nation 2001 and Nation 2013.

  • Nation, I. S. P. 2013. Learning vocabulary in another language. 2d ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139858656

    The second edition to the seminal text on second language vocabulary, Nation 2001. An essential text for researchers interested in this area.

  • Schmitt, Norbert. 2000. Vocabulary in language teaching. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    A teacher-friendly book that applies research findings to second language vocabulary pedagogy. While still useful, there is a more up to date second edition of this book that came out in 2020.

  • Schmitt, Norbert, and Diane Schmitt. 2020. Vocabulary in language teaching. New York: Cambridge Univ. press.

    DOI: 10.1017/9781108569057

    An up-to-date book on second language vocabulary with a primary focus on pedagogy.

  • Webb, Stuart, and I. S. P. Nation. 2017. How vocabulary is learned. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    A teacher-friendly book that applies research findings to second language vocabulary pedagogy.

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