The use of it-clefts in the written production of Spanish advanced learners of English


  • Susana Doval Suárez University of Santiago de Compostela
  • Elsa González Álvarez University of Santiago de Compostela



discourse analysis, it-clefts


Learner writing has been shown to differ from native speakers’ (NS) writing in terms of frequency of certain words or structures (Granger et al., 2002). On the basis of data obtained from two comparable corpora, the Spanish component of the ICLE (International Corpus of Learner English) and the LOCNESS (Louvain Corpus of Native English Essays), the present study explores the use of it-cleft constructions, a type of focusing device that has been claimed to be over-represented in the written production of advanced learners with different L1 backgrounds (Böstrom Aronsson, 2003; Callies, 2009). Its objective is threefold: first of all, to investigate how Spanish advanced EFL learners compare with NSs from the point of view of their use of it-clefts, thereby contributing to the characterization of advanced learner variety (ALV). Secondly, it addresses the issue of how NNSs and NSs compare regarding their use of the different discourse functions of it-clefts (i.e. identification and contrast), and also regarding the selection of the highlighted element. Finally, the study investigates whether the differences between the two groups may be attributed to influence of the L1. The Independent Samples t-test indicates that Spanish EFL learners significantly underuse it-clefts (t=2.100; p?0.05). It is suggested that this underuse cannot be ascribed to L1 transfer but to the learners’ preference for other types of clefting, which points to the need for further research on the use of clefts in Spanish texts and in English texts written by Spanish learners. The results also indicate statistically significant differences between the two groups in the discourse functions assigned to it-clefts. It is suggested that the Spanish advanced learners’ underuse of contrast may also indicate that they prefer to use pseudoclefts and other lexical or syntactic means for this purpose. As regards the length and syntactic features (category and function) of the highlighted element and the use of the relative pronoun, our results confirm that Spanish learners have generally acquired the English pattern, even though more qualitative analysis is needed to provide a detailed description of this component of the learners’ pragmatic abilities.

Author Biographies

  • Susana Doval Suárez, University of Santiago de Compostela

    Susana Doval Suárez is a tenured Lecturer in the Department of English Philology at the University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain). She holds a BA and a PhD in English Philology from the University of Santiago de Compostela. Susana teaches courses in phonetics, phonology, morphology and syntax. Her area of interest is second language learning, in particular acquisition of orthography and discourse competence.

  • Elsa González Álvarez, University of Santiago de Compostela

    Elsa González Álvarez is a tenured Lecturer in the Department of English Philology at the University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain). She holds a BA and a PhD in English Philology from the University of Santiago de Compostela. Elsa teaches courses in morphology and syntax , in addition to postgraduate courses in second language acquisition and methodology in linguistic research. Elsa’s PhD thesis was on lexical innovation in the interlanguage of second language learners, an area in which she has also published a book and several articles.


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Thematic Structure and Meaning

How to Cite

Doval Suárez, S., & González Álvarez, E. (2012). The use of it-clefts in the written production of Spanish advanced learners of English. Linguistics and the Human Sciences, 6(1-3), 151-172.