Linguistic complexity in high-school students’ EFL writing

Open access

Abstract

This study examined the syntactic and semantic complexity of L2 English writing in a Bosnian-Herzegovinian high school. Forty texts written by individual students, ten per grade, were quantitatively analyzed by applying methods established in previous research. The syntactic portion of the analysis, based on the t-unit analysis introduced by Hunt (1965), was done using the Web-based L2 Syntactic Complexity Analyzer (Lu, 2010), while the semantic portion, largely based on the theory laid out in systemic functional linguistics (Halliday & Matthiessen, 2014), was done using the Web-based Lexical Complexity Analyzer (Ai & Lu, 2010) as well as manual identification of grammatical metaphors. The statistical analysis included tests of variance, correlation, and effect size. It was found that the syntactic and semantic complexity of writing increases in later grades; however, this increase is not consistent across all grades.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Ai Haiyang & Xiaofei Lu (2010). A web-based system for automatic measurement of lexical complexity. Paper presented at the 27th Annual Symposium of the Computer-Assisted Language Consortium (CALICO–10). Amherst MA. June 8–12.

  • Beers Scott F. & William E. Nagy (2009). Syntactic complexity as a predictor of adolescent writing quality: Which measures? Which genre? Read Writ 22: 185–200.

  • Biber Douglas Bethany Gray & Kornwepa Poonpon (2011). Should we use characteristics of conversation to measure grammatical complexity in L2 writing development? TESOL Quarterly 45(1): 5-35.

  • Byrnes Heidi (2009). Emergent L2 German writing ability in a curricular context: A longitudinal study of grammatical metaphor. Linguistics and Education 20: 50-66.

  • Cohen Jacob (1988). Statistical Power Analysis for the Behavioural Sciences (2nd ed.). Hillsdale NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates.

  • Cooper Thomas C. (1976). Measuring written syntactic patterns of second language learners of German. The Journal of Educational Research 69(5): 176-183.

  • Halliday M. A. K. & Christian M.I.M. Matthiessen (2014). Halliday’s Introduction to Functional Grammar (4th ed.). London New York: Routledge.

  • Hunt Kellogg W. (1965). Grammatical Structures Written at Three Grade Levels. Campaign IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

  • Hunt Kellogg W. (1970). Do sentences in the second language grow like those in the first? TESOL Quarterly 4(3): 195-202.

  • Jahić Alma (2011). An Insight into Textual Borrowing Practices of University-Level Students in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Journal of Academic Writing 1(1): 173-179.

  • Lu Xiaofei (2010). Automatic analysis of syntactic complexity in second language writing. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics 15(4): 474-496.

  • Lu Xiaofei (2012). The relationship of lexical richness to the quality of ESL learners' oral narratives. The Modern Language Journal 96(2): 190-208.

  • Lu Xiaofei Haiyang Ai (2015). Syntactic Complexity in College-level English Writing: Differences among Writers with Diverse L1 Backgrounds. Journal of Second Language Writing 29: 16-27.

  • Mazgutova Diana & Judit Kormos (2015) Syntactic and lexical development in an intensive English for Academic Purposes Programme. Journal of Second Language Writing 29: 3-15.

  • Norris John M. & Lourdes Ortega (2009). Towards an organic approach to investigating CAF in instructed SLA: The case of complexity. Applied Linguistics 30(4): 555-578.

  • Ortega Lourdes (2003). Syntactic complexity measures and their relationship to L2 Proficiency: A research synthesis of college-level L2 writing. Applied Linguistics 24(4): 492-518.

  • Ortega Lourdes (2015). Syntactic complexity in L2 writing: Progress and expansion. Journal of Second Language Writing 29: 82-94.

  • Ryshina-Pankova Marianna (2015). A meaning-based approach to the study of complexity in L2 writing: The case of grammatical metaphor. Journal of Second Language Writing 29: 51-63.

  • Ryshina-Pankova Marianna & Heidi Byrnes (2013). Writing as learning to know: Tracing knowledge construction in L2 German compositions. Journal of Second Language Writing 22: 179-197.

  • Vyatkina Nina Hagen Hirschmann & Felix Golcher (2015). Syntactic modification at early stages of L2 German writing development: A longitudinal learner corpus study. Journal of Second Language Writing 29: 28-50.

  • Yang Weiwei Xiaofei Lu & Sara C. Weigle (2015). Different topics different discourse: Relationships among writing topic measures of syntactic complexity and judgments of writing quality. Journal of Second Language Writing 28: 53-67.

Search
Journal information
Metrics
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 53 53 13
PDF Downloads 61 61 16