Article choice in children with High Functioning Autism (HFA) and in children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI)

Jeannette Schaeffer, Merel Van Witteloostuijn, Doatske De Haan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study reports on the choice between a definite and an indefinite article by children with High Functioning Autism (HFA) and children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI). We carried out an elicited production task with 16 Dutch-speaking non-grammatically impaired children with HFA aged 6-13, 16 age-matched Dutch-speaking children with SLI, and 16 typically developing (TD) age controls. The results in the indefinite conditions reveal virtually no errors across groups. However, in the definite condition the HFA group, but NOT the SLI group, incorrectly produces indefinite articles significantly more often than the TD group. A more detailed analysis shows that 38% (6/16) of the children with HFA vs. 13% (2/16) of the children with SLI regularly produce indefinite articles in definite contexts. We propose that these children do not always calculate the additional (pragmatic) meaning of indefinites derived by scalar implicature (Horn 2006). Furthermore, development by age in the SLI group, but NOT in the HFA group, suggests that the failure to draw a scalar implicature is more persistent in children with HFA than in children with SLI. Concluding, our results show that non-grammatically impaired children with HFA are more prone to pragmatic impairments than children with SLI, suggesting a dissociation between grammar and pragmatics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-128
Number of pages22
JournalLinguistics in the Netherlands
Volume31
Issue number31
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Article choice
  • Autism
  • Definiteness
  • SLI
  • Scalar Implicature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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