Defining and operationalising L2 complexity

Bram Bulté, Alex Housen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterResearchpeer-review

222 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter takes a critical look at complexity in L2 research. We demonstrate several problems in the L2 literature in terms of how complexity has been defined and operationalised as a construct. In the first part of the chapter we try to unravel its highly complex, multidimensional nature by presenting a taxonomic model that identifies major types, dimensions and components of L2 complexity, each of which can be independently analysed or measured. The second part evaluates how complexity has been measured in empirical SLA research. Using the taxonomy of L2 complexity from part 1 as a framework, we inventory the measures of L2 complexity that have been used in a sample of forty recent L2 studies. Next we discuss the construct validity of several widely used measures of grammatical complexity by identifying their underlying logic as well as the methodological and practical challenges that their computation presents.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDimensions of L2 Performance and Proficiency
Subtitle of host publicationComplexity, Accuracy and Fluency in SLA
EditorsAlex Housen, Folkert Kuiken, Ineke Vedder
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)978-90-272-7326-0
ISBN (Print)978-90-272-1305-1
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Publication series

NameLanguage Learning & Language Teaching
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing
ISSN (Print)1569-9471

Bibliographical note

Alex Housen, Folkert Kuiken, Ineke Vedder


  • second language acquisition
  • language proficiency
  • complexity
  • accuracy
  • fluency


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