A Cross-Sectional Investigation of the Development of Modality in English Language Learners' Written Narratives: A Corpus-Driven Study

Eman Elturki, Tom Salsbury
1995 unpublished
The authors investigate development of English modality in written narratives of Arab second language (L2) English learners across six levels of English proficiency. Two hundred texts were randomly selected from each of the six levels resulting in a total of 1,200 texts. Following the concept-oriented approach (CoA) to second language acquisition (SLA), modal expressions were analyzed for frequency, type and combinations of modal auxiliaries and verbs. Results indicate that Arab learners
more » ... the concept of modality before they have target-like linguistic means to do so. Salient forms (high frequency and low variation) are most recurrent at lower levels of proficiency. The authors relate this finding to the learners' Arabic L1 modal system. At high levels of proficiency, the data show a sudden and dramatic shift to new modal forms to distinguish modal meanings. Finally, expressions of modality become more productive and variant as learners progress in their language proficiency. This paper looks at how the concept of modality emerges during the acquisition of English as a second/foreign language (L2) by Arab English language learners (ELLs). The analytical framework for this paper is the concept-oriented approach (CoA) used in research on second language acquisition (SLA). In this approach, researchers study the linguistic means that ELLs use to express a certain semantic concept (Bardovi-Harlig, 2007). The CoA has provided valuable insights into understanding the acquisition of temporality (