Modal auxiliaries in second language varieties of English

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Although Sridhar and Sridhar pointed out as early as 1982 that the two linguistic fields of second language acquisition (SLA) and New English studies could benefit from each other, the gap between the two disciplines has never been closed. This article draws attention to some of the reasons why these two disciplines have not come together and discusses how SLA theory could be applied to New English studies to explain grammatical patterns found in many, if not all, L2 varieties of English. As a case study the usage of modals and semi-modals of obligation and necessity in various varieties of English as a second language (ESL) in Africa, Asia and the South Pacific will be considered. In this context it will also be discussed to what extent the (ENL)-ESL-EFL distinction of Kachru’s model is still suitable if we now include a learner’s perspective and focus on similarities between ESL and EFL (English as a foreign language). As differences in the usage of modal auxiliaries in different ESL varieties are mostly quantitative rather than categorical, a corpus linguistic approach was chosen.


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