La relación entre complejidad léxica y sintáctica en una tarea narrativa. ¿Dos caras de la misma moneda?


  • Marco Berton University of Oslo



complejidad lingüística, complejidad léxica, complejidad sintáctica, producción escrita, dificultad de la tarea, ELE


The main hypotheses (trade-off hypothesis and cognition hypothesis) regarding the effects of task difficulty on linguistic production do not seem to make specific predictions as regards the different features commonly covered by the umbrella-term ‘linguistic complexity’. The present study investigates the effects of task difficulty on lexical and syntactic complexity in a narrative task written by Swedish university students of Spanish as a foreign language. Moreover, the relationship between these two features of linguistic complexity is analysed with the aim of finding possible changes in such relationship due to the different degree of task difficulty. The results point towards a positive relationship between lexis and syntax, when these are operationalised as lexical diversity and subordination indexes. Conversely, the correlation between lexical diversity and a coordination index showed a negative relationship.


Abdel Latif (2013). What do we mean by writing fluency and how can it be validly measured? Applied Linguistics 24(1), 99-105.

Bardovi-Harlig, K. (1992). A second look at T-unit analysis: Reconsidering the sentence. TESOL Quarterly 26, 390-5.

Brezina, V. & G. Pallotti. (2019). Morphological complexity in written L2 texts. Second Language Research 35, 99-119.

Brown, G., A. Anderson, R. Shilcock & G. Yule. (1984). Teaching talk: Strategies for production and assessment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bulté, B. & A. Housen. (2012). Defining and operationalising L2 complexity. En A. Housen, F. Kuiken & I. Vedder, (dirs.), Dimensions of L2 Performance and Proficiency: Complexity, Accuracy and Fluency in SLA (pp. 21-46). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Bygate, M. (2018). Learning Language through Task Repetition. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Candlin, C. (1987). Towards task-based language learning. En C. Candlin & D. Murphy (dirs.), Language Learning Tasks (pp. 5-22). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Pretience-Hall.

Cobb, T. (2013) Text Lex Compare v.3. Disponible en

Cuetos, F., M. González-Nosti, A. Barbón, & M. Brysbaert. (2011). SUBTLEX-ESP: Spanish word frequencies based on film subtitles. Psicológica 32, 133-143.

Ellis, R., P. Skehan, S. Li, N. Shintani & C. Lambert (2019) Task-Based Language Teaching: Theory and Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Foster, P. & P. Skehan. (1996). The influence of planning and task type on second language performance. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 18, 299-323.

Foster, P. & P. Tavakoli. (2009). Native speakers and task performance: Comparing effects on complexity, fluency and lexical diversity. Language Learning 59, 866-896.

Heaton, J. (1966). Composition through pictures. Harlow: Longman.

Hess, C., K. Sefton & R. Landry. (1986). Sample size and type-token ratios for oral language of preschool children. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 29, 129-134.

Housen, A., F. Kuiken, & I. Vedder. (2012). Complexity, accuracy and fluency: Definitions, measurement and research. En A. Housen, F. Kuiken & I. Vedder (dirs.), Dimensions of L2 performance and proficiency (pp. 1-20). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Ishikawa, T. (2006). The Effect of Manipulating Task Complexity Along the (±Here-and Now) Dimension on L2 Written Narrative Discourse. En P. García Mayo (dir.), Investigating Tasks in Formal Language Learning (pp. 136-156). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Izura, C., F. Cuetos & M. Brysbaert. (2014). Lextale-Esp: A test to rapidly and efficiently assess the Spanish vocabulary size. Psicológica 35, 39-66.

Jackson, D. & S. Suethanapornkul. (2013). The Cognition Hypothesis: A Synthesis and Meta-Analysis of Research on Second Language Task Complexity. Language Learning 63, 330-367.

Johnson, J. & E. Newport. (1989). Critical Period effects in second language learning: The influence of maturational state on the acquisition of English as a Second Language. Cognitive Psychology 21, 60-99.

Jones, L. (1979). Notions in English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kormos, J. & A. Trebits. (2012). The Role of Task Complexity, Modality, and Aptitude in Narrative Task Performance. Language Learning 62, 439-472.

Li, P., S. Sepanski & X. Zhao. (2006). Language history questionnaire: A Web-based interface for bilingual research. Behavior Research Methods 38, 202-210.

Long, M. (1985). A role for instruction in second language acquisition: Task-based language teaching. En K. Hyltenstam & M. Pienemann, (dirs.) Modelling and assessing second language development (pp. 77-99). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Malvern, D., B. Richards, N. Chipere & P. Durán. (2004). Lexical Diversity and Language Development. Quantification and Assessment. Houndmills, Basing-stoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

McCarthy, P. (2005). An Assessment of the Range and Usefulness of Lexical Diversity Measures and the Potential of the Measure of Textual, Lexical Diversity (MTLD). Tesis doctoral, Universidad de Memphis.

Meara, P. & I. Miralpeix. (2017). Tools for Researching Vocabulary. Bristol: Multi-lingual Matters.

Muñoz, C. (2006). The effects of age on foreign language learning: the BAF Project. En C. Muñoz (dir.), Age and the Rate of Foreign Language Learning (pp. 1-41). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Norris, J. & L. Ortega. (2009). Towards an organic approach to investigating CAF in instructed SLA: The case of Complexity. Applied Linguistics 30, 555-578.

Pallotti, G. (2015). A simple view of linguistic complexity. Second Language Research 31, 117-134.

Parra Paños, L. (2015). Defining and operationalizing propositional complexity into idea units: effects of mode, discourse type, task type and task complexity. Tesis doctoral, Universidad de Barcelona.

Read, J. (2000). Assessing Vocabulary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Robinson, P. (2001). Task complexity, cognitive load, and syllabus design: a triadic framework for examining task influences on SLA. En P. Robinson (dir.), Cognition and second language instruction (pp. 287-318). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Robinson, P. (2003). Attention and memory during SLA. En C. Dought & M. Long (dirs.), Handbook of Second Language Acquisition (pp. 631-678). Oxford: Blackwell.

Robinson, P. (2015). The Cognition Hypothesis, second language task demands, and the SSARC model of pedagogic task sequencing. En M. Bygate (dir.), Domains and Directions in the Development of TBLT (pp. 87-121). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Salthouse, T. (2000). Aging and measures of processing speed. Biological Psychology 54, 35-54.

Sánchez, L. (2014). The role of age on the development of written competence in L4 English. Evidence from a Spanish/ German CLIL context. En G., DeAngelis, & A. Otwinowska (dirs.) Teaching and learning in multilingual contexts. Sociolinguistic and educational perspectives (pp. 125-144). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Sasayama, S. & S. Izumi. (2012). Effects of task complexity and pre-task planning on Japanese EFL learners’ oral production. En A. Shehadeh & C. Coombe (dirs.), Task-based language teaching in foreign language contexts. Research and implementation (pp. 23-42). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Skehan, P. (1996). A framework for the implementation of task-based instruction. Applied Linguistics 17, 38-62.

Skehan, P. (1998). Task-Based Instruction. Annual review of applied linguistics 18, 268-286.

Skehan, P. (2015). Limited Attention Capacity and Cognition. En M. Bygate (dir.), Domains and Directions in the Development of TBLT (pp. 123-155). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Skehan, P., Foster, P. (2001). Cognition and tasks. En P. Robinson (dir.), Cognition and second language instruction (pp. 183-205). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tavakoli, P. (2014). Storyline complexity and syntactic complexity in writing and speaking tasks. En H. Byrnes & R. Manchón (dirs.), Task-based language learning Insights from and for L2 writing (pp. 217-235). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Tavakoli, P. & P. Foster. (2008). Task Design and Second Language Performance: The Effect of Narrative Type on Learner Output. Language Learning 58, 439-473.

Tavakoli, P. & P. Skehan. (2005). Strategic planning, task structure and performance testing. En R. Ellis (dir.), Planning and task performance in a second language (pp. 239–277). Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Text Inspector (2016) Online lexis analysis tool at [Consultado el 14/10/2022]

Torras, R., T. Navés, L. Celaya & C. Pérez Vidal. (2006). Age and IL Development in Writing. En C. Muñoz (ed.), Age and the Rate of Foreign Language Learning (pp. 156-182). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Wolfe-Quintero, K., S. Inagaki & H. Kim, (1998). Second Language Development in Writing: Measures of Fluency, Accuracy, and Complexity. Hawaii: University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Xing, J. (2015). The effects of Increasing Task Complexity on EFL Learners’ Writing Performance. Studies in Literature and Language 11, 34-39.




How to Cite

Berton, M. (2022). La relación entre complejidad léxica y sintáctica en una tarea narrativa. ¿Dos caras de la misma moneda?. Borealis – An International Journal of Hispanic Linguistics, 11(3), 411–429.