Article published in:Tense-Aspect-Modality in a Second Language: Contemporary perspectives
Edited by Martin Howard and Pascale Leclercq
[Studies in Bilingualism 50] 2017
► pp. 183–212
The acquisition of modal auxiliaries in English by advanced francophone learners
This study investigates the acquisition of modal auxiliaries by advanced Francophone learners of English in two different settings: in the United States where the target language is their second language (ESL learners, n = 5) and in France where it is their foreign language (EFL learners, n = 4). American English native speakers served as controls. After presenting a descriptive account of the expression of modality in French and English, we report on a written sentence completion task that was administered during the last session of a larger semi-longitudinal study investigating the expression of tense, aspect and modality by advanced Francophone learners of English. We found that ESL learners, who were within NS range on the pre-test, outperformed EFL learners, but we also found a strong modal and modality effect for both groups. We propose the modal auxiliaries’ varying input frequency, their polysemy, the ambiguous contexts in which they occur as well as a lack of useful negative feedback and of appropriate exposure to pragmatics (particularly for EFL learners) as tentative explanations for their overall poor performance.
Published online: 15 February 2017
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