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Essay example - The meanings and uses of “can” and “could” across different semantic types

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Pages 5 (1255 words)
In learning sentences, children adopt modality to enable them to evaluate a proposition in relation to a set of other propositions. This projects the possibility,…

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Children begin to use different types of modals at different stages, usually the use of ability or basic desire – intentional purpose occurs first, followed by the use of deontic and then epistemic. Papafragou (1998) argues that the order of acquisition of modal verbs and auxiliaries correlates with the Theory of Mind. This report explores the use of the words “can” and “could” by analyzing the utterances of a single child over a 4 year period via combo and KWAL command, and examining the results. These words were chosen due to their diverse interpretations depending on semantic and pragmatic context.
The meaning and use of the word “can” and “could” was examined in different contexts by analyzing the utterances of a child named Adam from the age of two to five. The data from four conversation files, #18, #32, #43, #55 were obtained from the CHILDES site under the Brown corpora (Brown, 1973). All conversations were recorded in Adam’s home. In order to extract the utterance containing “can” or “could,” combo command was used with +t*CHI + s“can*” and with +t*CHI + s“could*” respectively. KWAL command was also utilized to find the sentences that contain target words including the utterances above and below the target sentences. For example, to find the words “can” or “can’t” and the surrounding utterances, kwal + t*CHI + s“can*” –w3 +w3 was used. -w3 provides three utterances below the target sentence while +w3 provides three utterances above the target sentence. Based on the theory of mind, as children age they should be able to use the word “can” or “could” in more contexts with increasing sentence complexity.
The results from file analyses have shown that the use of words “can” and “could” in the utterances increase from the age of 2-5 years. At the age of two, there are ten sentences that incorporate can/can’t and one sentence that includes the auxillary ...
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