Writing Trajectories of Grammatical Complexity at the University: Comparing L1 and L2 English Writers in BAWE

Shelley Staples, Bethany Gray, Douglas Biber, Jesse Egbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Grammatical complexity has been established as a key indicator of language and writing development (Ortega 2003; Bulté and Housen, 2014; Crossley and McNamara 2014). The present study uses the Register-Functional approach to complexity (Biber et al. 2022) to compare the development of L1 English and L2 English writers across year of study and discipline in the British Academic Written English corpus. It also introduces a novel method of examining developmental trajectories that uses both inferential statistics and descriptive measures to account not only for relationships between the year of study and use of linguistic features, but also for the shape of the trajectories and frequencies of occurrence over time. Statistical analyses reveal significant relationships for most of the complexity features. Means and confidence intervals indicate overall similarities in trends from early undergraduate to graduate-level writing across L1/L2 English writers, but also key differences in the developmental trajectories, including greater use of phrasal complexity features and less use of clausal features by L2 English writers in early levels, as well as distinct use of complexity features across certain disciplines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)46-71
Number of pages26
JournalApplied Linguistics
Volume44
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language

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