Auxiliary and Modal Verbs

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  • The auxiliary and modal verb system is a particularly challenging aspect of the grammatical system for the language learner. This entry focuses only on the acquisition of the English auxiliary system due to the considerable body of work in this area. However, it should be noted that the pattern of acquisition will vary cross-linguistically. Auxiliaries derive from full lexical verbs, but as the process of grammaticalization is language specific, W. Croft states that auxiliary verbs in different languages often exhibit different properties in their identities, meanings, and behaviors. For English, there is a body of evidence showing that some aspects of the auxiliary system emerge together, while others follow individual patterns of development. No theoretical account can, as yet, provide a full and satisfactory explanation ...

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