Chinese ELF Learners’ Acquisition of Modal Verbs: A Corpus-Based Study

  •  Yan Xiao    


By adopting a corpus-based approach, the study explores how Chinese EFL learners differ from native English speakers in the use of modal verbs in different genres. Results show that Chinese EFL learners significantly overuse modal verbs both in speaking and writing. In addition, their overuses of the high-value modal verbs of must, should and have to also achieve the significant level. However, Chinese EFL learners significantly underuse the low-value modal verbs of would, might and could in comparison with native English speakers. It is hypothesized that Chinese EFL learners’ improper uses of modal verbs are caused by the negative transfer from Chinese, in which the meaning potentials of modal verbs are different from those in English. 

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