A1 Journal article (refereed)
Syntactic complexity in Finnish-background EFL learners’ writing at CEFR levels A1–B2 (2022)

Khushik, G. A., & Huhta, A. (2022). Syntactic complexity in Finnish-background EFL learners’ writing at CEFR levels A1–B2. European Journal of Applied Linguistics, 10(1), 142-184. https://doi.org/10.1515/eujal-2021-0011

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editorsKhushik, Ghulam Abbas; Huhta, Ari

Journal or seriesEuropean Journal of Applied Linguistics



Publication year2022

Publication date04/01/2022


Issue number1

Pages range142-184

PublisherWalter de Gruyter GmbH

Publication countryGermany

Publication languageEnglish


Publication open accessNot open

Publication channel open access

Publication is parallel published (JYX)https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/79292


The increasing importance of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) has led to research on the linguistic characteristics of its levels, as this would help the application of the CEFR in the design of teaching materials, courses, and assessments. This study investigated whether CEFR levels can be distinguished with reference to syntactic complexity (SC). 14- and 17-year-old Finnish learners of English (N=397) wrote three writing tasks which were rated against the CEFR levels. The ratings were analysed with multi-facet Rasch analysis and the texts were analysed with automated tools. Findings suggest that the clearest separators at lower CEFR levels (A1–A2) were the mean sentence and T-unit length, variation in sentence length, infinitive density, clauses per sentence or T-unit, and verb phrases per T-unit. For higher levels (B1–B2) they were modifiers per noun phrase, mean clause length, complex nominals per clause, and left embeddedness. The results support previous findings that the length of and variation in the longer production units (sentences, T-units) are the SC indices that most clearly separate the lower CEFR levels, whereas the higher levels are best distinguished in terms of complexity at the clausal and phrasal levels.

KeywordsEnglish languageforeign languageslanguage teachinglanguage learningsyntaxcomplexitylanguagesuse of languagewordsphrasesknow-howevaluationstudy materiallanguage courses (study material)

Free keywordsEnglish as a foreign language (EFL); syntactic complexity; Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR); automated analysis of learners’ written scripts

Contributing organizations

Ministry reportingYes

Reporting Year2022

JUFO rating1

Last updated on 2024-03-04 at 19:06