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Academic Paper


Title: The development of linguistic complexity: A functional continuum
Author: Elizabeth M. O'Dowd
Institution: Saint Michael's College
Linguistic Field: Applied Linguistics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: Following the No Child Left Behind Act (2001), which mandates standards-based accountability for the academic progress of all students, much attention has been given to integrating language and content instruction for English learners (ELs) in K-12 classrooms in the US. Although TESOL and other state-approved language proficiency standards acknowledge that academic English requires progressive linguistic complexity to tackle progressively complex content, they give no indicators for this progression beyond some generalizations about increased sentential variety. An enlightening characterization of linguistic complexity comes from Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL), specifying how grammatical choices actually construct meaning, making a strong case for explicit, proactive instruction, and calling for a systematic analysis of the language our English learners need to master. This paper describes an ongoing project to answer this call by charting a developmental continuum of complexity for school-age English learners. Its preliminary analysis is based on some 90 compositions, collected over the course of a year from more than 30 students in a New England middle school classroom.

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This article appears IN Language Teaching Vol. 45, Issue 3, which you can READ on Cambridge's site .



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