Let me quickly introduce myself to provide a context for my questions. My PhD research focuses on ways that we can teach primary school children (9-12) ways of handling complex, contradictory and uncertain environmental knowledge. One of the major cornerstones of my study is the need for the development of language awareness, especially of language of modality and ‘conditional language’ (stating things as a possibility, rather than as a fact).

Regarding language of modality is am especially focused on the expression of certainty of beliefs/knowledge and on expressing possibility. Linguistic devices of interest are, for example, modal auxiliary verbs, modal adverbs and evidentials.

I am trying to connect research from e.g. the fields of psycholinguistics, child development, critical thinking and education. I have some questions about potential literature, that I hope you will be able to answer for me. I am interested in L1 language acquisition.

  1. Do you know who is currently doing research into the development of the language of modality in children? Most literature seems to be from the 70ties, 80ties and 90ties.

  2. Do you have suggestions for literature that deals with development of language of modality in children 8-12 years of age? The literature that I was able to find seems to be focused mainly on children between approximately 3-8.

  3. Are you aware of any literature that connects the development of modal language skills in children with ways in which education could support this development?

  4. Are you aware of any literature that connects the development and further refinement of modal language skills in adolescents (and adults) and the problems found in the development of critical thinking skills, such as the ability to assess the credibility of knowledge sources and the ability to evaluate the reliability of information?


  • +1 Great question. In the event that you don't get suitable answers here, you might want to (1) ask on the linguistlist and (2) explore on Google Scholar what papers cite the ones you know already (there's a function for that).
    – robert
    Commented Jan 31, 2018 at 22:16
  • Did I understand you correctly, you're interested in L1 acquisition of modality?
    – Alex B.
    Commented Feb 1, 2018 at 3:57
  • A lot depends on just how one defines "modality". There are differing accounts of modal logic and semantics, to say nothing of polarity, focus, genericity, and lexical variants.
    – jlawler
    Commented Feb 1, 2018 at 19:06
  • Thanks for your comments, I tried to answer them in an updated version of my message. My focus is on L1 language of modality, and I am especially interested in modality as expressions of certainty of beliefs and possibility. I've been searching for a long time using academic databases through the university library, as well as internet options such as Google Scholar. But I have not yet found anything about the age group in my research. I thought I had asked a question on linguistlist yesterday, but I just checked and is seems to have disappeared so I will give it another go. Thanks.
    – Tilia
    Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 9:16


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