Discovering domains - On the acquisition of causal connectives

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The acquisition of connectives (and, because, but) can be accounted for by the cumulative complexity approach – at least partially (Evers-Vermeul and Sanders, 2009). In this paper we extend this approach by distinguishing between several types of causal relations, such as Sweetser's (1990) content, epistemic and speech-act use of causal connectives. We used converging methodologies to investigate when children discover these three domains in the use of causal connectives. In two experiments, Dutch children aged 3;1–6;0 had to describe causally related events, argue with and instruct a hand puppet. These experiments revealed that even three-year-olds can produce causal connectives in all three domains. Our third study, a longitudinal corpus study among Dutch children aged 1;6–5;6, shows that children as young as 2;8 are able to produce causal connectives in the content and the speech act domain, but that the epistemic domain is acquired later. Furthermore, it appears that context plays a crucial role in the production of domain types. Our approach of using converging methodologies proves fruitful: corpus-based data show us children's earliest spontaneous use and enable us to track longitudinal developments; experiments enable us to control for context effects.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1645-1662
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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