Noun phrase complexity and second language Chinese proficiency: An analysis of narratives by Korean learners of Chinese

Jifeng Wu, Xiaofei Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examined differences in the overall noun phrase (NP) complexity and the use of specific types of NP modifiers among Korean learners of Chinese as a second language (CSL) at different proficiency levels and first language (L1) Chinese speakers. Our data consisted of a corpus of 134 narratives produced by 103 Korean CSL learners (33 beginner, 37 intermediate, and 33 advanced) and 31 L1 Chinese speakers on the same topic. Each narrative was manually analyzed using seven measures of overall NP complexity and 26 measures based on specific types of NP modifiers. Two measures of overall NP complexity (i.e., complex NP ratio and total length of all complex premodifiers) significantly discriminated all learner proficiency levels. The frequency of several types of NP modifiers consistently decreased or increased from lower to higher proficiency levels, while that of several others showed cross-proficiency fluctuations. Advanced learners demonstrated comparable levels of overall NP complexity as well as similar frequency of usage of specific types of NP modifiers as L1 Chinese speakers, with the exception that the latter used significantly more multiple modifiers. Our findings have useful implications for L2 Chinese writing syntactic complexity research and L2 Chinese writing pedagogy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100810
JournalAssessing Writing
StatePublished - Jan 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language

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