Pre-conference Workshop 2

University of Birmingham, Monday 24 July 2017, 09:30 - 16:30

Complexity in writing development: untangling two approaches to measuring grammatical complexity

cl2017 logoWorkshop convenors

Workshop summary

Linguistic complexity is an often-investigated topic with respect to language development, for both L1 and L2 speakers and writers. The assumption underlying this pairing of complexity and language development is that higher proficiency speakers/writers (in the case of L2) or more advanced speakers/writers (in the case of L1) use more complex language and produce more complex texts. But what constitutes complex language? How do we define complexity? How do we operationalize complexity in order to measure it in language production? How are different approaches to complexity similar and different? How is complexity mediated by proficiency or level, register or genre, and other contextual factors?

This workshop principally focuses on these questions for one type of complexity – grammatical complexity – as it relates to writing development in L1 and L2 writers. (We will also discuss other types of complexity, such as lexical and pragmatic complexity, in Part 3 of the workshop.) The goal of the workshop is to explore how fundamentally distinct measures approach the same underlying construct, to gain a fuller understanding of what the measures capture about language production by carrying out complexity analysis on authentic texts, and to see a selection of these variables applied in research on writing development.

The workshop consists of three parts, each of which is described in the attached workshop description [PDF, 101KB].

  • Part 1: Hands-On, Practice-Oriented Session in Coding and Compiling Complexity Variables
  • Part 2: Research Synthesis on the Development of Complexity in Academic Writing
  • Part 3: Roundtable Discussion

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