Abstract - Curran

Causal Adverbial Production, Language Intervention and Science Learning

Abstract: Language serves as an essential resource to learn about cause and effect throughout
childhood. Causal adverbial sentences use causal conjunctions (e.g., because, so) to join two
clauses to express cause-effect relationships (Diessel & Hetterle, 2011). Grammatical skill and
content knowledge interact throughout the development of causal adverbials. Preschool
children demonstrate high accuracy on comprehension and production for familiar causal
relationships, such as common social emotional events. However, they exhibit frequent
reversal errors for unfamiliar relationships, including physical causes (French, 1988; Johnston
& Welsh, 2000). Causal adverbials are frequently used to explain causal relationships in
elementary school academic settings, and skill with causal adverbials may affect acquisition of
this type of academic content (e.g. Williams et al., 2014). Children with specific language
impairment (SLI) are at risk for failure in these academically relevant language skills. This study
examines the effect of language intervention for causal adverbials on production of casual
adverbials for familiar and unfamiliar content, and the potential influence of such intervention
on acquisition of academic content during science instruction for young students with SLI. This
will identify the potential for intervention to positively affect causal language and academic
skills, and clarify the relationship between content knowledge and grammatical skill.