Edited by Gary G. Fogal and Marjolijn H. Verspoor
[Language Learning & Language Teaching 54] 2020
Chapter 9. A critical appraisal of the CDST approach to investigating linguistic complexity in L2 writing development
This chapter aims to help the complex dynamic systems theory (CDST) approach to second language acquisition (SLA) reach its full potential by critically appraising current applications of this approach to complexity in L2 writing development. To further this end, we first review five representative empirical CDST-inspired studies on complexity in L2 writing. Second, we contrastively analyze a dataset of beginning L2 writing productions from both a “traditional” and a CDST perspective. Several issues central to a CDST approach are discussed, including the link between CDST concepts and research methods, the emphasis on variation and variability as a window on and a driver of L2 development, the generalizability of findings, anti-reductionism, and the treatment of measurement noise as important information about L2 development. We identify challenges for applying CDST concepts and methods to L2 (writing) development, illustrate how researchers try to come to grips with these challenges, and offer suggestions for addressing them.