A comparative analysis of the linguistic complexity of Grade 12 English Home Language and English First Additional Language examination papers


It is expected that English Home Language (Eng HL), as a subject, is more complex than English First Additional Language (Eng FAL). This article aims to uncover the reality of this expectation by comparatively investigating the linguistic complexity of texts used for reading comprehension and summaries in the final school exit examinations. The Coh-Metrix online platform was used to analyse a combined total of 24 Grade 12 final examination texts for Eng HL and Eng FAL ranging from 2008 to 2019. Five main indices relating to the word level, sentence, readability, lexical diversity and referential cohesion linguistic complexity were explored. The findings illustrated that the linguistic complexities of the texts used for reading comprehension and summary writing in the two subjects differ significantly, with Eng HL being more linguistically complex than Eng FAL texts. Furthermore, the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level measure indicates the Eng FAL texts as two grades below the overall grade for Eng HL texts.  Nonetheless, the linguistic complexity measures used in this article confirm the expectation that texts used in Eng HL reading comprehension and summary writing are more complex than those used in Eng FAL.

Author Biography

Johannes Sibeko, Nelson Mandela University
I am a Lecturer in digital Humanities in the Faculty of Arts (Department of Applied Language Studies) at Nelson Mandela University.I am currently pursuing a PhD in Linguistics and Literary Theory. My PhD study focuses on measuring linguistic complexity in Sesotho.