An Investigation of Modal Auxiliary Verb Acquisition by Children Three to Seven Years of Age

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Communication Sciences & Disorders


The present study was designed to investigate the performance of twenty-one modal and quasi modal auxiliary verbs by normally-developing children aged 3-0 to 6-11 years on two experimental tasks involving each an imitated and elicited language task.

A one-hundred utterance elicited language task in response to toy and picture stimuli and a seventy-eight sentence imitation task were administered to fifteen subjects at each of the four age levels: 3-0 to 3-11 years, 4-0 to 4-11 years, 5-0 to 5-11 years, and 6-0 to 6-11 years.

Statistical analysis of the performance of the four subject groups revealed significant differences among subject performance of the specific modal and quasi modal auxiliary verbs included in the imitation language task. Significant differences were also revealed among the mean number of occurrence of the specific modal and quasi modal auxiliary verbs considered in the elicited language task.

It was concluded from the present study that the following developmental sequence does exist among the 21 selected modal and quasi modal auxiliary verbs: 1. 'can't' 2. 'going to,' 'won't,' 'couldn't' 3. 'had to' 4. 'shouldn't' 5. 'can' 6. 'ought to' 7. 'will,' 'should' 8. 'might' 9. 'have to' 10. 'must,' 'would' 11. 'may' 12. 'has to,' 'mustn't' 13. 'wouldn't' 14. 'could' 15. 'shall' 16. 'had better'

Imitative language sampling was more useful in the determination of the productive control of the modal auxiliary verbs by the subjects. Elicited language samples were more useful in determining the extent to which specific modal and quasi modal performance was attempted and the degree of accuracy with which it was accomplished during spontaneous language production by the subject groups.

Numerical relationships between modal or quasi modal and verb phrase performance which are of clinical importance in the remediation of pathological language performance were revealed in the present study.

This document is currently not available here.