Background

There are three aspects to consider concerning German modal verbs: Their meanings, their special conjugations, and their effect on word order.

The meanings of the modals under focus as well as their irregular conjugations are primary to the acquisition of the total process of their use.  They are not, however, congruent to animation.  There is no movement involved in the semantic representation of modal verbs nor in their differentiation of subject-verb agreement or the irregular stem-vowel change, e.g., k๖nnen > kann.  Animating the instruction for these features could have a positive effect in terms of intrinsic motivation and focus of attention, but it could also be detrimental as a distraction, misdirecting attention.
Data collected in this study also permit investigation of the effects of animation on the acquisition of three different types of information:
•Content congruent to animation: a dynamic process of transformation – word order
•Content noncongruent to animation: a limited state change – verb conjugation
•Content requiring rote memorization: arbitrary choice – vocabulary meanings
The three types of information give rise to three types of errors:
(1) morphology or errors of vocabulary, meaning of words (M)
(2) spelling or form errors, conjugation (C)
(3) placement or syntax errors, word order (W)