German Journal Sprache Literatur Kultur


This study examined the acquisition patterns of the prototypical and epistemic semantic meanings of German modals. It investigated whether different instructional approaches (cognitive instruction approach based on force dynamics and metaphoric extensions, traditional translation based instruction) have the potential to foster modal verbs acquisition, and which of the two approaches was more effective. Thirty-three, fourth semester learners of German as a foreign language were subjected to one of the experimental conditions. Findings were compared to a control condition, which did not receive any instruction. Learning gains were measured by means of a multiple choice meaning recognition test that assessed students’ gains of receptive knowledge of the prototypical and epistemic senses of German modals. Results revealed that when students received cognitive instruction, they gained greater prototypical and epistemic semantic knowledge when compared to the students who received traditional translation based instruction or were part of the control condition. Most importantly, it was shown that the cognitive instruction approach had greater effect on meaning retention of modal verbs senses.