JoLIE 9:1/2016


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Jelena Prtljaga

Preschool Teacher Training College, Vrsac, Serbia


Aleksandra Gojkov Rajic

Teacher Training Faculty, Belgrade University, Serbia


Radmila Palinkasevic

Preschool Teacher Training College Vrsac, Serbia






The inextricable connection between language and culture has for a number of years been recognized by linguists dealing with various aspects of this link, including the presence of culture in the grammar we use and metaphors we live by, cultural elements to be incorporated in foreign language teaching and classroom activities aimed at culturally oriented foreign language teaching and learning in order to raise students intercultural awareness. Epistemic uses of modal verbs seem to be rather intriguing from the standpoint of English as a foreign language for a variety of reasons. One of them refers to the fact that they are frequently used as hedges or face-saving communication strategies in the English language, while it seems that other languages (e.g. Serbian) have not fully developed such a function of modal verbs. The German language has well developed epistemic senses in the literature commonly called subjective use of modal verbs and in this sense (as expected for a Western Germanic language) it is closer to the English language. As a consequence, the aim of the conducted explorative research according to the method of systematic non-experimental observation is to verify the assumption that it is rather demanding for learners of the English language whose mother tongue is Serbian to gain a command over epistemic senses of modal verbs. The research presented in the paper seeks to examine the use of modal verbs expressing epistemological senses in the English language by learners whose mother tongue is Serbian. For this purpose the level of learners’ knowledge was screened in regard to epistemological senses of the English modal verbs, as well as their inclination to use modal verbs, rather than some other modal means, when expressing the meanings of certainty or possibility. The subjects of the research were 66 first year students at the Preschool Teacher Training College in Vrsac –Serbia. The results indicated that approximately two third of the students are able to encode verbs expressing epistemical senses, while only one third of the subjects are aware of the specific behaviour of the examined verbs at the formal level. At the same time, students showed strong inclination to use other lexical modal means rather than modal verbs to express epistemic meanings. Such findings could possibly be explained by the fact that modal verbs are not frequently used in the Serbian language to express epistemic meanings, which could cause interference.


Key words: Epistemic modality; Learner; Modal verbs.





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How to cite this article: Prtljaga, J., Gojkov Rajic, A., Palinkasevic, R. (2016). Culture specific features: epistemological senses of English and German modal verbs and their Serbian equivalents. Journal of Linguistic and Intercultural Education – JoLIE, 9(1), 111-122. DOI:



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