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Syntactic complexity across registers: Investigating (in)formality in second-language writing
Uppsala universitet; Northern Arizona University.
University of Gävle, Faculty of Education and Business Studies, Department of Humanities, English.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3835-2290
2020 (English)In: Journal of English for Academic Purposes, ISSN 1475-1585, E-ISSN 1878-1497, Vol. 45, article id 100850Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Syntactic complexity (i.e. the grammatical sophistication exhibited in language production) has been found to be positively correlated with formality. In viewing formality as acline rather than as a dichotomy, the present study revisits previous claims about (in)formality in learner writing in relation to syntactic complexity. The use of commonly utilized measures of syntactic complexity is explored in learner writing and across four registers from the British National Corpus (academic prose, popular science, news and fiction). The results show that while the learners generally exhibited appropriate register awareness, there were some differences noted between their writing and that of the published writers, in particular with regard to the measure of complex nominals. A detailed analysis of this measure in the academic register showed that the learners make less frequent use of adjectival and prepositional modifiers than the expert writers. Our results thus confirm previous claims about the importance of phrase-level complexity measures as a predictor of formality. It would seem that learners would benefit from some targeted instruction of such structures for increased register awareness.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier , 2020. Vol. 45, article id 100850
Keywords [en]
Syntactic complexity, Register, Formality, L2 writing, Noun-phrase complexity
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-31963DOI: 10.1016/j.jeap.2020.100850Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85079891670OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hig-31963DiVA, id: diva2:1396704
Available from: 2020-02-26 Created: 2020-02-26 Last updated: 2020-03-09Bibliographically approved

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CiteExportLink to record
Permanent link

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Cite
Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard-cite-them-right
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • sv-SE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • de-DE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
  • html
  • text
  • asciidoc
  • rtf