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ERIC Number: ED381009
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1995
Pages: 9
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: N/A
Native and Non-Native English Speakers' Current Usage of "Can" and "May" in Requesting Permission.
Olson, Susan M.
A study investigated patterns of usage of "can" and "may" (e.g., "May/Can I go to the bathroom?") among native speakers and non-native speakers of English. A questionnaire was administered to 25 native English-speakers, most aged 19-26 and the remainder over age 45, and 56 non-native speakers taking advanced English-as-a-Second-Language classes. The questionnaire contained ten questions (five posed to a friend, three to a teacher, two to a parent), all requesting permission. Respondents chose between "may" and "can" according to their assumptions about their normal use in natural speech. Results indicate that "can" was used much more than "may" among native speakers, although "may" was used noticeably more in speaking to a teacher. Younger native-speaking respondents used "may" more often when speaking to a friend and "can" more often with parents. Among non-native speakers, "can" was used less often than among native speakers, especially in the younger age group, and "may" was used more when addressing a teacher. Overall, non-native use of "can" was similar to that of the younger native-speaker group, except in addressing a teacher. Recommendations for classroom teaching of usage to non-native speakers are offered. The questionnaire is appended. Contains 11 references. (MSE)
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers; Tests/Questionnaires
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A