Grammatical complexity : Insights from English for academic purposes teachers

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Article number100974
Journal / PublicationJournal of Second Language Writing
Online published20 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


While grammatical complexity has received much attention in the past decades, little research has yet sought the insights of second language (L2) writing teachers who are on the front line of educating academic writers. Given that teachers’ understanding of the representation of complex grammatical structures may impact their students’ development of academic literacy, this study explored L2 teachers’ perception of grammatical complexity. Twenty English for Academic Purposes (EAP) teachers (N = 20) in a Chinese university evaluated a set of five texts including varying grammatical characteristics. Using their ratings and notes as stimuli, we conducted a consecutive stimulated recall with each teacher to elicit their rationales for judging the texts on grammatical complexity. The findings indicated that, in evaluating grammatical complexity, EAP teachers not only considered lexico-grammatical features, but also deliberated over the propositional complexity, coherence, and formality. Also, while cognizant of the importance of features associated with phrasal complexity, EAP teachers seemed to have overestimated the significance of subordination and underestimated the role of non-finite dependent structures in academic prose. Implications were discussed in terms of teacher training and further theorizing grammatical complexity. © 2023 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Research Area(s)

  • grammatical complexity, syntactic complexity, L2 writing, English for academic purposes (EAP), Stimulated-recall, Teacher perception