Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 7 October 2016


Modality refers to the expression of speakers’ opinion or attitude towards the proposition that the sentence expresses or the situation that the proposition describes, or the speakers’ judgment of the likelihood of the proposition being true. While modal auxiliaries are “helping words”, functioning as helpers to make up verb phrases, they are prohibited from being used independently. The present study attempts to conduct a corpus-based study on three modal auxiliaries should, ought to and must with regard to their collocations, colligations, as well as semantic features in Chinese learners’ oral productions.

This study reveals that Chinese learners overused should and must a great deal as compared against the native speaker data, while they used ought to much less frequently than native speakers. As for collocations, the observed frequencies of the collocates of these three modal auxiliaries, as shown in the two corpora, are different, but those frequently co-occurring words of the three modal verbs, as have appeared in the two sets of data,are more or less the same.

Key Words: Deontic modal meaning, Epistemic modal meaning, Contrastive Interlanguage Analysis, Colligation, Semantic features, nativelikeness,modal auxiliaries

Introduction Medals, known as small words, perform particular functions in both written and oral communication. This thesis is devoted to an analysis of three modal auxiliaries, namely should, ought to and must. It aims to find out how Chinese learners use these three medals and their differences from native speakers in four aspects: frequency, collocation, colligation and semantic features.

Significance: Modal auxiliaries belong to a group of small words yet performing particular functions. Present study may be of some help in two ways. Firstly, it may help students notice their shortcomings in using those modal auxiliaries compared with native speakers and think over the reasons, thus to help them improve their communication ability. Secondly, it may provide teachers with some implications for language teaching, raising their awareness of the importance of natural and authentic language resources in teaching and research, and encouraging them to use more effective teaching methods to help students with their English learning. It is also hoped that the results of this study will shed some light on the common problems of the use of modality in EFL speaking environment.

Purpose: English modal auxiliaries play an important role in language communication,as well as in second language acquisition. The study aims to provide some useful information for English learning, teaching and research. We will investigate and describe the characteristics of the collocations, colligations and semantic features. This study also aims to find out some causes of the differences between the two target groups of English-users’ uses of three chosen modals in their speeches. It is hoped that the findings of this study will give a deep understanding of how frequently the three modal auxiliaries are used by Chinese EFL speakers and contribute to the teaching and teaching reforms in the future. This thesis will probe into these issues through Contrastive Intedanguage Analysis.

In the whole study, the following major questions are to be addressed: 1. Is there nativelikeness shown in the speakers’ representation of the four modal auxiliaries will would, shall and should, their related chunks with not, have and of their related tenses and subjunctive mood by EFL speakers and L2 speakers? 2. What are the problems found in Chinese EFL speakers in their learning the four modal auxiliaries will would, hall, and should, their related chunks with not,have and of their related tenses and subjunctive mood as a result of the comparison with those of L2 speakers and native speakers from a quantitative perspective? If any,what are the possible causes of the found problems? 3. What is the tense and subjunctive mood distribution of the four modal auxiliaries used by Chinese EFL speakers in contrast with native speakers as a result of the qualitative analysis?

Structure: The present dissertation falls into 5 chapters focusing on the listed research questions: 1. Introduction: significance, purpose, questions to be answered, how the idea is originated, sketches out the outline 2. Definitions of key terms to describing the theoretical foundations, reviews, set up the main framework 3. depicts research design (data and instruments), methodology, procedures 4. main body, negative forms, affirmative forms, contracted forms, original forms, future tenses and subjunctive mood, results(quality and quantity) 5. conclusion, major findings presents pedagogical implications and limitations of the study, suggestions


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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 7 October 2016

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