Contrastive Interlanguage Analysis of Modal Auxiliary Verb Usage by Japanese Learners of English in Argumentative Essays


This research concludes that Japanese non-native English speakers (JNNSs) use modal auxiliary verbs in a way that differs from what native speakers (NSs) use from two perspectives: frequency of occurrence and verb phrase structures (VPSs) where modals occur. To lead this conclusion, JNNSs’ usage of nine central modals (‘can’, ‘could’, ‘may’, ‘might’, ‘shall’, ‘should’, ‘will’, ‘would’, and ‘must’) is compared with NSs’ in the International Corpus Network of Asian Learners of English, which is one of the largest freely-available corpora of Asian learners’ English. Among several modules the corpus contains, this research adopts the ‘Written Essay’ module only, which is the set of 200-300 words essays. Frequency analysis reveals that both JNNSs and NSs use ‘can’ with the most frequency, followed by ‘should’ and ‘will’; however, as for all the other modals except ‘shall,’ there are no similarities in frequency order. Besides, a log-likelihood test uncovers the JNNSs’ overuse of ‘can’ and ‘must’ as well as their underuse of ‘will’ and ‘would’. Analysis regarding VPSs reveals that JNNSs use most of the modals with bare infinitives or in the passive voice only. Although several of them are used in other VPSs, the number of such cases are very few. Overall findings suggest that teaching materials explain these gaps in use to JNNSs in order to bring their modal usage close to the native-like usage, and present more examples of the modals occurring in a wide range of VPSs to help learners to express their opinions from a variety of viewpoints.

Author Information
Shusaku Nakayama, Meiji Gakuin University, Japan

Paper Information
Conference: IICEHawaii2020
Stream: Foreign Languages Education & Applied Linguistics (including ESL/TESL/TEFL)

This paper is part of the IICEHawaii2020 Conference Proceedings (View)
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