Complexity: Activity 2

Impact of task on AS-units

There are multiple ways to measure syntactic complexity, including AS-units, T-units, verb arguments, etc. SLA researchers have not yet agreed on which of these measures is best for Chinese learner language. Here, with advice from our research consultant, we chose to use AS-units.

An AS-unit is “a single speaker’s utterance consisting of an independent clause or subclausal unit, together with any subordinate clause(s) associated with it” (Foster et al. 2000, 365).

An independent clause consists of a subject and a verb, and can stand alone as a sentence. For example,
我的房子有两层。(My house has two floors.)
你有两个房子吗? (Do you have two houses?)

A subclausal unit is a segment that can be expanded into a full clause by reconstructing omitted elements or a minor utterance. For example,
有两层?(Does it have two floors?)
不是车。(It's not a car.)

A subordinate clause includes a predicate and perhaps a subject. For example,
因为他们的设备不太好。(Because their facilities are not very good.)

In this activity we use one language segment from Jiulin’s oral production on the Jigsaw task and another from Jiulin’s Comparison task, for the purpose of comparison. These two segments, while not of an equal number of characters, are coded for AS-units.

  1. Compare the number of AS-units in the two segments. Then calculate the average length of the AS-units for each segment.
  2. Is there any difference in Jiulin's performance on the two tasks? What other grammatical constructions do you see that show syntactic complexity in this segment?

From Jiulin’s Jigsaw

1 J ,请描述你的照片。// 请告诉我。//   
3 J
5 J 你有两个房子吗?个房子?//
7 J 对,,// [我也有//
9 J , 你的全部的房子的前面有一个,, 低的墙吗?一个低的?//
11 J 不是墙,// 就是, , 跟一个门一样,//这样,//但是(…)你知道吗?//
13 J (laugh)
15 J 什么?//不是车,//
17 J
19 J 你的房子是白色的吗?//
21 J          我的也, 我的也是。//

From Jiulin’s Comparison

1 J ,我觉得,,穷人,没有钱人//
3 J 没有,没有太多钱=//
5 J
7 J 对=//
9 J 在窗户//
11 J ,这个房子好像,,有点旧,,因为=
13 J 门上有一个(…)这样的东西//
15 J 还有那个
17 J 那个墙
19 J 对,应该
21 J 应该刷油漆,得油漆//
23 J 没有车//
25 J ,还有,就是一个很旧的收到
27 J           [波,//什么?//
29 J 就是这两个//
31 J 我觉得对//

Please type your answers to the questions in the box below.

When you have finished typing your answer, click to compare your response with the Learner Language staff response.

  1. While counting characters in the two segments, false starts, fillers, hesitations, self-corrections and repetitions are not included; these non-included elements are highlighted in the text below. You might decide to include these if you think these are important for some reason.
 Jiulin’s Jigsaw

Jiulin’s Comparison

74 characters
14 AS-units

Mean number of characters per AS-unit: 5.3

No subordinate clause

75 characters
11 AS-units

Mean number of characters per AS-unit: 6.8

1 subordinate clause
(Line 11-13: 这个房子好像,,有点旧,,因为门上有一个(…)这样的东西)

  1. As seen in the table above, Jiulin uses fewer AS-units in the Comparison than in the Jigsaw task. However, the average length of his AS-units in the Comparison is longer than that in the Jigsaw. In addition, he uses one subordinate clause in the Comparison but none in the Jigsaw. It thus seems that his production is somewhat more syntactically complex on the Comparison task than on the Jigsaw Task.


CARLA Mailing List Signup Contact CARLA CARLA Events Donate to CARLA CARLA on Facebook CARLA on YouTube Twitter
Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) • 140 University International Center • 331 - 17th Ave SE • Minneapolis, MN 55414