A Corpus-Based Comparative Study on Syntactic Complexity in University Students’ EFL Writing in Southwestern China: A Case of Pu’er University

Yang Yang, Ngee Thai Yap, Afida Mohamad Ali


Syntactic complexity is the variety and sophistication degree of the syntactic structures conveyed in written production. The syntactic complexity of general Chinese university students’ EFL writing has been studied previously, but the performance of university students in educationally underdeveloped Southwestern China remains unclear. Taking Pu’er University as a case, this study collected 400 EFL compositions from 100 university students in Southwestern China and compared them with 200 writing samples from the Louvain Corpus of Native English Essays. Scores of 11 syntactic complexity indices were calculated using the L2 Syntactic Complexity Analyzer. The independent samples t-test was conducted to investigate whether and the extent to which the two groups differed on syntactic complexity indices. The results showed that university EFL students in Southwestern China produce a similar length of linguistic units when compared to native English writers. However, the amount of subordination in EFL writing is significantly less than that of native English writers. For the amount of coordination, the university EFL students produced a lower proportion of coordinate phrases than that of native writers, but the proportion of coordinate sentences is not significantly different between the two groups. Finally, for degree of phrasal sophistication, university EFL students in Southwestern China produce significantly fewer complex nominals than native writers do. The results imply that university students in Southwestern China should write more subordinated sentences and complex nominals, such as nominal clauses, infinitives, or gerunds, in their future EFL writing, instead of writing long sentences just heavily relying on simple coordination.

Full Text:


DOI: https://doi.org/10.5430/wjel.v12n8p172

World Journal of English Language
ISSN 1925-0703(Print)  ISSN 1925-0711(Online)

Copyright © Sciedu Press

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the 'sciedupress.com' domain to your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders. If you have any questions, please contact: wjel@sciedupress.com