Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Applied Linguistics and English as a Second Language

First Advisor

Scott Crossley

Second Advisor

YouJin Kim

Third Advisor

Ute Römer

Fourth Advisor

Ben Miller


Syntactic complexity has been an area of significant interest in L2 writing development studies over the past 45 years. Despite the regularity in which syntactic complexity measures have been employed, the construct is still relatively under-developed, and, as a result, the cumulative results of syntactic complexity studies can appear opaque. At least three reasons exist for the current state of affairs, namely the lack of consistency and clarity by which indices of syntactic complexity have been described, the overly broad nature of the indices that have been regularly employed, and the omission of indices that focus on usage-based perspectives. This study seeks to address these three gaps through the development and validation of the Tool for the Automatic Assessment of Syntactic Sophistication and Complexity (TAASSC). TAASSC measures large and fined grained clausal and phrasal indices of syntactic complexity and usage-based frequency/contingency indices of syntactic sophistication. Using TAASSC, this study will address L2 writing development in two main ways: through the examination of syntactic development longitudinally and through the examination of human judgments of writing proficiency (e.g., expert ratings of TOEFL essays). This study will have important implications for second language acquisition, second language writing, and language assessment.