April 2008. Volume 3 Issue 1
A Corpus-Based Study of Subjunctive Mood Patterns: Implications
for EFL Instruction
Tsinghua University, China/ Georgia State University, USA
Georgia State University, USA
Weimin Zhang is associate professor of Applied Linguistics at Tsinghua University, Beijing. He also is a PhD candidate in applied linguistics at Georgia State University. He has taught English in China and the USA. He has an MA in TEFL from the University of Nottingham. His research interests include corpus linguistics & language pedagogy, language attitudes & sociolinguistics, second language teacher education, and genre theory.
Guiling (Gloria) Hu is a PhD candidate in the Department of Applied Linguistics & ESL at Georgia State University. She has taught English in China and the USA. Her research interests include second language teaching, second language acquisition, sociolinguistics, and second language teacher education.
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This corpus-based study investigated three patterns of the subjunctive mood (SM) frequently taught in an English as a foreign language (EFL) setting (i.e., would rather, had hoped, and it’s time), involving their frequency and occurrences in the English language and the distribution of the SM syntactic structure in the patterns. The study shows that: a) The SM patterns tend to occur with low frequencies in the corpora; and b) The SM syntactic structure is not the only structure in the patterns and tends to occur less frequently than other syntactic structures in the patterns.
The findings suggest that a discrepancy exists between what is taught about SM in the EFL setting and what is found through corpus-based grammatical descriptions. This study highlights the pedagogical issue that the core grammatical constructions EFL learners should master are not always the ones that have been traditionally emphasized in pedagogic grammars and that EFL learners may spend ample time and effort in what will be of little use to them. Based on the findings, implications for SM teaching are also discussed.
Key words: subjunctive mood; EFL teaching; corpora; grammar teaching