Morphological complexity in written L2 texts

Brezina, Vaclav and Pallotti, Gabriele (2019) Morphological complexity in written L2 texts. Second Language Research, 35 (1). pp. 99-119. ISSN 0267-6583

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Morphological complexity (MC) is a relatively new construct in second language acquisition (SLA). After critically discussing existing approaches to calculating MC in first- and second language acquisition research, this article presents a new operationalization of the construct, the Morphological Complexity Index (MCI). The MCI is applied in two case studies based on argumentative written texts produced by native and non-native speakers of Italian and English. Study 1 shows that morphological complexity varies between native and non-native speakers of Italian, and that it is significantly lower in learners with lower proficiency levels. The MCI is strongly correlated to proficiency, measured with a C-test, and also shows significant correlations with other measures of linguistic complexity, such as lexical diversity and sentence length. Quite a different picture emerges from Study 2, on advanced English learners. Here, morphological complexity remains constant across natives and non-natives, and is not significantly correlated to other text complexity measures. These results point to the fact that morphological complexity in texts is a function of speakers’ proficiency and the specific language under investigation; for some linguistic systems with a relatively simple inflectional morphology, such as English, learners will soon reach a threshold level after which inflectional diversity remains constant.

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Journal Article
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Second Language Research
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27 Jun 2016 12:40
Last Modified:
22 Nov 2022 03:25