Simplicity Without Elegance: Features of Sentences in L1 and L2 Academic Texts



    1. Seattle University Seattle, Washington, United States
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    • Eli Hinkel has taught ESL and applied linguistics as well as trained teachers for more than 20 years and has published books and numerous articles on learning second culture and L2 grammar, writing, and pragmatics. She is also the series editor of Lawrence Erlbaum's ESL & Applied Linguistics Professional Series.


A quantitative analysis of 1,083 L1 and L2 academic texts establishes that advanced nonnative-English-speaking students in U.S. universities employ excessively simple syntactic and lexical constructions, such as be-copula as the main verb; predicative adjectives; vague nouns; and public, private, and expecting/tentative verbs, at median frequency rates significantly higher than those found in basic texts by native English speakers. An examination of substantial corpus analyses carried out in the past two decades indicates that these constructions are prevalent in conversational and informal discourse rather than written academic texts. Reasons for the prevalence of simple syntactic and lexical features of text in L2 academic essays are considered. In addition, instructional techniques are proposed to deal with shortfalls in naturalistic and communicative L2 learning and instructional methods for academically bound L2 students.