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Gepubliceerd in: Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 7/2015

01-07-2015 | Original Paper

Interpretation of Logical Words in Mandarin-Speaking Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Uncovering Knowledge of Semantics and Pragmatics

Auteurs: Yi (Esther) Su, Lin-Yan Su

Gepubliceerd in: Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders | Uitgave 7/2015

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Abstract

This study investigated the interpretation of the logical words ‘some’ and ‘every…or…’ in 4–15-year-old high-functioning Mandarin-speaking children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Children with ASD performed similarly to typical controls in demonstrating semantic knowledge of simple sentences with ‘some’, and they had delayed knowledge of the complex sentences with ‘every…or…’. Interestingly, the children with ASD had pragmatic knowledge of the scalar implicatures of these logical words, parallel to those of the typical controls. Taken together, the interpretation of logical words may be a relative strength in children with ASD. It is possible that some aspects of semantics and pragmatics may be selectively spared in ASD, due to the contribution the language faculty makes to language acquisition in the ASD population.
Voetnoten
1
To illustrate how scalar implicatures arise, the logical words ‘some’ and ‘all’ compose a linguistic scale (e.g., <some, all>) based on information strength, with ‘all’ being more informative than ‘some’. The cooperative principle of Gricean pragmatics entreats a speaker to use the most informative expression in conversational contexts (Grice 1975). In a situation in which a sentence with ‘some’ and one with ‘all’ are both true, the cooperative speaker is expected to choose the more informative term ‘all’ over the weaker term ‘some’ to convey the information. Moreover, if the speaker asserts the weaker term ‘some’, the listener infers that the stronger term ‘all’ is not applicable, otherwise the speaker should use the stronger term ‘some’, thus the listener infers the negation of the stronger term, i.e., ‘not all’.
 
2
In this experimental study, the term ASD refers to children with autistic disorder, Asperger syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder—not otherwise specified, i.e., children with a diagnosis of pervasive developmental disorders according to the DSM-IV-TR criteria. See similar reports in Chevallier et al. (2010) and Pijnacker et al. (2009).
 
3
This is also the advantage of TVTJ over traditional act-out paradigms which request the participants to perform actions upon the experimenters’ commands. The act-out task may have limited value in determining the full range of interpretations that are associated with a linguistic expression, because children may simply favor one reading over others in the experimental contexts (Crain and Thornton 1998). Furthermore, it is harder for children with ASD to cooperate in act-out paradigms due to their lack of responsiveness to the experimenters’ instructions.
 
4
To ensure that children with ASD’s judgments in the every-or-underinformative condition were based on their correct understanding of the other semantic conditions of ‘every…or…’, we also refined our analysis by excluding children who didn’t judge correctly in the every-or-true or every-or-false conditions for 3/4 of the test trials. This left 3 younger children and 11 older children with ASD, as well as 13 TD children in each age group. The results showed that the rejection rates of the every-or-underinformative condition between these children with ASD vs. TD children were similar within different age groups: ASD/younger vs. TD/younger: t(14) = .69, p = .50, d = .43; ASD/older vs. TD/older: t(22) = .63, p = .53, d = .26.
 
5
Following the view of Noam Chomsky (1981, 1986), the language faculty is a biological mental system that implements the project procedures for associating human linguistic signals with interpretations. The language faculty imposes constraints on which languages human can naturally acquire. Language acquisition in normal children is then the by-product of a task-specific computational mechanism, which enables children to rapidly and effortlessly acquire any human language without formal instruction. More work is needed to investigate the possible role the language faculty plays in children with ASD.
 
6
However, as one reviewer pointed out, preserved pragmatic capacities may not necessarily be linked to grammatical strengths in ASD (Kissine 2012; Perkins 2008). In particular, although not all pragmatics involves mind-reading, the computation of pragmatic inferences like scalar implicatures may not be rooted within grammar (Geurts 2009). See also Chemla and Singh (2014a, b) for different interpretations of experimental data on scalar implicatures.
 
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Metagegevens
Titel
Interpretation of Logical Words in Mandarin-Speaking Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Uncovering Knowledge of Semantics and Pragmatics
Auteurs
Yi (Esther) Su
Lin-Yan Su
Publicatiedatum
01-07-2015
Uitgeverij
Springer US
Gepubliceerd in
Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders / Uitgave 7/2015
Print ISSN: 0162-3257
Elektronisch ISSN: 1573-3432
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-014-2350-0