Measuring Longitudinal Writing Development Using Indices of Syntactic Complexity and Sophistication

Kristopher Kyle*, Scott Crossley, Marjolijn Verspoor

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    Measures of syntactic complexity such as mean length of T-unit have been common measures of language proficiency in studies of second language acquisition. Despite the ubiquity and usefulness of such structure-based measures, they could be complemented with measures based on usage-based theories, which focus on the development of not just syntactic forms but also form-meaning pairs, called constructions (Ellis, 2002). Recent cross-sectional research (Kyle & Crossley, 2017) has indicated that indices related to usage-based characteristics of verb argument construction (VAC) use may be better indicators of writing proficiency than structure-based indices of syntactic complexity. However, because cross-sectional studies can only show general trends across proficiency benchmarks, it is important to test these findings in individuals over time (Lowie & Verspoor, 2019). Thus, this study investigates the developmental trajectories of second language learners of English across two academic years with regard to syntactic complexity and VAC sophistication.

    Original languageEnglish
    JournalStudies in Second Language Acquisition
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27-Oct-2020

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