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Volume 18 Number 1, Spring 2021, Pages 1-389   

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Syntactic Complexity, Clausal Complexity, and Phrasal Complexity in L2 Writing: The Effects of Task Complexity and Task Closure

    Jiyong Lee

Although recent studies of L2 writing development have called for the inclusion of metrics that measure phrasal embedding as well as clausal embedding as indicators of syntactic complexity, task-based research on L2 written performance still shows a heavy dependence on length-based measures and clausal subordination. In this study, the written performance of 81 Korean learners of English was examined using traditional syntactic measures that most task-based studies rely on, clausal complexity measures, and noun phrasal complexity measures. Participants were randomly assigned to either a Closed group that carried out closed tasks (i.e., tasks with a predetermined answer), or an Open group that carried out open tasks (i.e., tasks without a predetermined answer). Task complexity was manipulated in terms of the number of elements. Generally in line with Kyle and Crossley's findings (2018), the study revealed that including more encompassing measures of syntactic complexity helped in the understanding of learners' interlanguage development, especially when considering their level of L2 proficiency.

Keywords: L2 writing, task complexity, task closure, traditional syntactic complexity, clausal complexity, noun phrasal complexity, task-based language teaching