International Journal of Applied Linguistics

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Volume 29 Issue 2 (July 2019), Pages 159-282

Proficiency‐related variation in syntactic complexity: A study of English L1 and L2 oral descriptive discourse (pages 248-264)

This cross‐sectional study compares the discourse of Japanese learners of English at different proficiency levels with their native English‐speaking peers in completing six communication tasks in order to better understand the emergence of syntactic complexity in relationship to developing second language (L2) proficiency. The study investigates four clause combination strategies (coordination, nominal subordination, adverbial subordination, and relative subordination) in relationship to lexical selection and compensation strategies in order to gain insight into how and why syntactic complexity at the clausal and phrasal levels varied between groups. Results indicate that the four types of clause combination strategies investigated varied systematically with proficiency level as argued in previous theory and research and might be productively distinguished in future analysis of L2 learner language. The study also identifies how L2 noun phrase complexity was moderated by lexical compensation. The results of the study have important implications for the coding of syntactic complexity in L2 learner language.

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