On cross‐linguistic variation and measures of linguistic complexity in learner texts: Italian, French and English

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The paper investigates possible effects of cross‐linguistic variation on measures of syntactic complexity in 60 texts from Swedish L1 learners of English, French and Italian as foreign languages at CEFR level A and CEFR level B. A previous study on the same learners and texts, showed significant differences between proficiency levels for two length measures of complexity in English and French, but not in Italian. In this paper we hypothesize that due to the Null Subject property of Italian, the developmental prediction for some complexity measures might be different in Italian compared to French and English. In fact, previous research has suggested that beginner learners of Italian overuse overt subjects which might lead to higher scores, relatively speaking, of length measures in Italian at the lowest levels of proficiency. However, contrary to our hypothesis, we did not find more Null subjects at CEFR level B than at CEFR level A, but we did find clear restrictions on their distribution. We conclude that we are a long way from understanding how cross‐linguistic differences interact with other variables such as tasks and language combinations and what the effects might be on measures of syntactic complexity.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Specific Languages
  • General Language Studies and Linguistics


  • English, French, Italian, L2 acquisition, null subjects, syntactic complexity, typological differences
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Applied Linguistics
Early online date2019 Mar 29
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2019 Mar 29
Publication categoryResearch

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