"Discourse connectives like ‘because’ or ‘so’ in English can be used to relate various kinds of propositional contents, such as two events unfolding in the world (The temperature rises because the sun is shining) or a premise and a conclusion in the mind of a speaker (Max is ill because he didn’t come to work). The proposed study will make use of an array of state-of-the-art empirical methods such as eye-tracking, comprehension experiments, constrained elicitation and corpus analysis in order to investigate the cognitive differences between these different uses of connectives along four complementary axes: their acquisition by normally-developing children and children suffering from autism, their processing by adult speakers, and a cross-linguistic comparison between closely related languages. In addition to enriching our knowledge of the way connectives work, the planned studies will provide answers to several on-going scientific debates with far-reaching implications, both applied and theoretical. In the domain of language acquisition, they will provide important answers for the debate on the relation between language and cognition, and more specifically on the role of children’s mother tongue as a trigger for language acquisition and cognitive development. These studies will also reveal possible differences in processing between school-age children and adults, with important pedagogical implications for syllabus design and the evaluation of textual productions. In the field of autism, they will bring an important contribution to the understanding of the linguistic and communicative impairment of this population. Finally, the cross-linguistic comparisons will contribute to the development of a collaborative multilingual database of connectives, containing a more accurate representation of their meaning than the one found in bilingual dictionaries."
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