The Role of Usage-Based Indices as Indicators of Syntactic Growth in Second Language Writing

Hyunwoo Kim1, Yangon Rah2,
Author Information & Copyright
1Yonsei University
2Republic of Korea Air Force Academy
Corresponding Author: Professor Department of Language and Literature Republic of Korea Air Force Academy 635, Danjae-ro, Namil-myeon, Sangdang-gu, Cheongju 28187, Korea E-mail:

ⓒ Copyright 2023 Language Education Institute, Seoul National University. This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Received: Feb 27, 2023 ; Revised: Mar 29, 2023 ; Accepted: Apr 04, 2023

Published Online: Apr 30, 2023


Although syntactic complexity features both length-based syntactic complexity and syntactic sophistication, previous research has predominantly focused on length-based complexity. Against this background, this study aimed to test the validity of syntactic sophistication including usage-based indices in explaining L2 writing proficiency, in comparison to the validity of length-based complexity indices. In a series of multiple regression analyses including various types of indices as predictors of the proficiency levels reflected in 3,201 sample essays, we found that the model including usage-based predictors produced explanatory power comparable to that of the model including length-based indices. However, when we incorporated both usage- and length-based indices in a single regression model, we found that the integrated model had a stronger explanatory power than the length-based and usage-based models, respectively. These results suggest that the proposed usage-based indices can serve as reliable measures of L2 syntactic complexity and may supplement length-based indices.

Keywords: syntactic complexity; syntactic sophistication; L2 writing; usage-based approaches; multiple regression



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