On the Acceptance of the Null That by Bilingual Catalan/Spanish L2 Learners of English

Mireia LLinàs-Grau*, Aurora Bel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


The research presented in this article aims at providing new data on L2 learner knowledge and recognition of the null that in complement clauses. The speech of English native speakers reveals a kind of variation which implies that where that may be present or absent in clauses selected by many common verbs such as say or think there is no preference for one of the two options. In this article, judgement data of bilingual Catalan/Spanish upper-intermediate and advanced L2 learners of English are analysed bearing in mind two possible factors that, according to previous research, may influence the acceptance of this phenomenon, level of proficiency and absence versus presence of instruction. A relevant issue regarding this construction is that performing like a native does not always imply using one grammatical structure in the target language and gradually doing away with the use of another ungrammatical one; it rather implies being able to detect native speaker frequency in the use of one of the two possible options, overt that usage or the null that. Our results show that learning in this domain depends more on degree in language proficiency than in the specific instruction provided, that both choices do not pose the same diculty and that advanced L2 learners of English can display a native-like acceptance of the null that option. The option that presents more challenges is the one where there is no L1 facilitation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)-
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • L2 English
  • null that usage
  • second language acquisition
  • the effects of instruction


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