Nathan Vandeweerd defended his PhD dissertation on Tuesday 5 July 2022!
His thesis entitled 'Phraseological complexity in L2 French: Investigating variation across modes' was supervised by Magali Paquot (UCLouvain) and Alex Housen (VUB).
Other members of the jury included Prof. Dr. Douglas BIBER (Northern Arizona University), Prof. Dr. Bastien DE CLERCQ (VUB), Prof. Dr. Fanny FORSBERG LUNDELL (Stockholm University), Prof. Dr. Marije MICHEL (University of Groningen), and Prof. Dr. Thomas FRANCOIS (UCLouvain).
Along with accuracy and fluency, complexity is considered a major component of L2 performance and proficiency (Housen et al., 2012; Housen & Kuiken, 2009; Skehan, 1996, 2009). Until recently, however, most measures of complexity have focused on solely lexical or syntactic aspects of L2 production, disregarding the important role that word combinations play in the development of linguistic competence. This project investigates the extent to which Paquot’s (2019) proposed construct of phraseological complexity (i.e., the diversity and sophistication of word combinations) is an indicator of proficiency and development in L2 French. It also explores the extent to which phraseological complexity measures relate to other aspects of linguistic complexity (i.e., syntactic, lexical and morphological) as well as the extent to which phraseological complexity differs in oral versus written L2 production. These questions are addressed in a series of empirical studies using both cross-sectional and longitudinal corpora of matched oral and written tasks by the same learners. Overall, the results show that in L2 French, both phraseological and non-phraseological complexity measures are significant predictors of proficiency level (as established independently on the basis of expert raters’ holistic proficiency assessments) and that phraseological complexity develops gradually over time. However, in both cases, these effects are small and appear to be moderated by both communicative function and the constraints of online production in speech. These findings speak to the importance of a more ‘organic’ approach to complexity (Norris & Ortega, 2009) that takes into account aspects such as target language or modality when interpreting the meaning of complexity measures.