S.C. (Ineke) Vedder (1)

Task complexity, task type and measures of linguistic complexity


The investigation of complexity, fluency and accuracy in second language learning requires a thorough analysis of  the type of tasks by means of which language proficiency is assessed. In order to establish how complex, accurate and fluent a learner’s output is, it is necessary to gain insight into the question of which type of tasks, in terms of inherent complexity and task format, are most likely to elicit linguistic performance. More specifically, the questions is thus to what extent specific linguistic features are triggered by the tasks that have been assigned. On the basis of examples of writing tasks administered to L2 learners of different proficiency levels, a number of issues regarding the relationship between task complexity, task type and linguistic performance will be discussed in the lecture, and a study will be presented on the effects of task complexity on linguistic complexity and accuracy in L2 writing. In the study, conducted among 91 Dutch university students of Italian and 76 students of French, both general and specific performance measures were employed. One of the findings of the study was that for describing linguistic performance both general and specific complexity measures, which seem to be complementary to each other, are to be applied.