A case for the multifactorial assessment of learner language

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In this study, we apply Gries and Divjak’s Behavioral Profile approach to comparenative English can and may, learner English can and may, and French pouvoir.We annotated over 3,700 examples across three corpora according to morethan 20 morphosyntactic and semantic features and we analysed the features’distribution with a hierarchical cluster analysis and a logistic regression. Thecluster analysis shows that French English learners build up fairly coherent categoriesthat group the English modals together followed by pouvoir, but that theyalso consider pouvoir to be semantically more similar to can than to may. Theregression strongly supports learners’ coherent categories; however, a variety ofinteractions shows where learners’ modal use still deviates from that of nativespeakers.


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