ERIC Number: ED169790
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1979
Reference Count: 0
T-Unit Analysis in Second Language Research: Applications, Problems, and Limitations.
Gaies, Stephen J.
In recent years, T-unit analysis has been applied in second language research to characterize the syntactic nature of linguistic input and to assess the syntactic maturity of the learners' written production. This measure has been seen to provide an objective and reliable method of determining the overall complexity of language samples. However, its validity as a measure and the significance of overall syntactic complexity as a variable have been questioned. These reservations address the question of: (1) the main problems that have been encountered in T-unit analysis in general, and in its application to second language data in particular; (2) the T-unit as a valid measure of language development; and (3) the usefulness of the T-unit analysis. To the criticism that the T-unit analysis does not take error into account, it is argued that an attempt to agree on a definition of error would compromise the ease and objectivity of this analytical process. To the charge that it treats syntax alone, failing to account for communicative strategies, such as circumlocution and style, it is pointed out that T-unit analysis research simply claims that the ability to combine clauses is a characteristic of proficiency, and that growth in this area provides an index of growth in the target language. Finally, T-unit analysis seems useful only beyond a certain level of proficiency, but it provides insights into first and second language development. (AM)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: T Units
Note: Revised version of paper presented at the Los Angeles Second Language Research Forum (2nd, Los Angeles, California, October 6-8, 1978)