would be possible and to preclude a confounding between any effect and discourse topic. Thirty-five teachers read and evaluated short passages on the topic of making aluminum; the remaining twenty-seven read papers on the use of alcohol and marijuana. In this investigation, the ratings of the passages on the "alcohol and marijuana" topic were used as part of the replication study. Because the procedures for creating the experimental stimuli and for collecting data were identical for each group of five passages, those procedures will be described only once.
The investigators composed five short texts for each topic. The five passages in each set represented five different levels of syntactic complexity, ranging from very simple to very complex. However, the passages were, as much as possible, similar in all other respects. Discourse mode, discourse purpose, and content were held constant across all five passages in each set.
The first set of five passages was based on the "aluminum" task used in Hunt's 1970 study of syntactic complexity. 10 The original "aluminum" passage, which served within the first set of passages as the passage with the lowest level of syntactic complexity, reads as follows:
Aluminum is a metal. It is abundant. It has many uses. It comes from bauxite. Bauxite is an ore. Bauxite looks like clay. Bauxite contains aluminum. It contains several other substances. Workmen extract these other substances from the bauxite. They grind the bauxite. They put it in tanks. Pressure is in the tanks. The other substances form a mass. They remove the mass. They use filters. A liquid remains. They put it through several other processes. It finally yields a chemical. The chemical is powdery. It is white. The chemical is alumina. It is a mixture. It contains aluminum. It contains oxygen. Workmen separate the aluminum from the oxygen. They use electricity. They finally produce a metal. The metal is light. It has a luster. The luster is bright. The luster is silvery. The metal comes in many forms.
This passage consists entirely of single-clause sentences, each of which is a single T-unit. It is a passage notable for its syntactic simplicity rather than its complexity. For the other end of the spectrum of five passages on the first topic, we constructed a passage delivering the same content, but in a much more syntactically complex way. Two sentences from the passage at the other end of the spectrum will illustrate the differences in syntactic complexity:
Aluminum, an abundant and useful metal, comes from bauxite, a clay- like ore. Although bauxite contains several other substances, workmen remove
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Publication information: Book title: The Territory of Language:Linguistics, Stylistics, and the Teaching of Composition. Contributors: Donald A. McQuade - Author. Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press. Place of publication: Carbondale, IL. Publication year: 1986. Page number: 154.
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