Grammatical complexity of noun phrases found in GED and college-level social studies texts

Linda Kay O'Malley, Hamline University


Noun phrases (NPs), an important linguistic feature of academic English, carry the information load found within GED texts and the college-level texts GED learners aspire to read. The meaning-making potential of the pre- and postmodifiers surrounding the head noun sometimes carry more information than the head noun itself (Gee, 2004), and if learners are unable to decipher that meaning, their texts become unreadable, content is not absorbed, and successful passage from GED credential to higher education may become an elusive dream. This text analysis examined the grammatical complexity of NPs within GED and college social studies texts and found a higher frequency of complex and embedded NPs in the college register, features that may increase the possible challenges for reading comprehension. Therefore, learning to unpack the meaning from complex NPs may become an important grammatical tool for learners hoping to use the GED credential as a bridge to higher education.