Does L2 writing proficiency influence noun phrase complexity? A case analysis of argumentative essays written by Chinese students in a first-year composition course

Journal Article (Journal Article)

This corpus-based study investigated the association between noun phrase complexity and L2 writing proficiency based on the 11 noun modifiers in Biber, Gray, and Poonpon's (2011) index of complexity features. A corpus was built based on 100 argumentative papers written by first-year Chinese students, including 50 papers from high-proficiency students (TOEFL writing score > 23) and 50 papers from low-proficiency students (18 < TOEFL writing score < 23). The noun modifiers in Biber et al.’s (2011) index were then extracted with a computational program to calculate the frequencies of the noun modifiers. Via a Chi-square test on the normalized frequencies, the findings demonstrate an association (p = 0.016) between the 11 noun modifiers and the students' writing proficiency levels (i.e., high and low). Next, a residual analysis was applied, which pinpointed that four noun modifiers used by the students from both proficiency levels contribute to the association the most: attributive adjectives, relative clauses, premodifying nouns, and prepositional phrases (of). The four modifiers were then further explored and interpreted based on a qualitative analysis of the argumentative papers. Pedagogical implications are provided at the end to discuss possible ways of teaching the noun modifiers in an EAP writing course.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Lan, G; Lucas, K; Sun, Y

Published Date

  • October 1, 2019

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 85 /

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0346-251X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.system.2019.102116

Citation Source

  • Scopus