Macquarie University
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Grammatical knowledge in children with autism

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posted on 2022-03-28, 23:54 authored by Neha Khetrapal
This thesis examines syntactic skills of children with autism in a series of experiments framed within the generative theory of linguistics (Chomsky, 1981). The participants were children aged between 5;6 and 12;7 years and were classified as high functioning as tested by non verbal IQ, but varied as to their classification as ‘Language Impaired’ or ‘Language Normal’. First two experiments tested children’s understanding of reference relations for reflexives and pronouns and follows up on a study by Perovic et al. (2013b), which claimed that children with autism do not have hierarchical relationship of c-command as it relates to Principle A. The novelty of this experiment is the incorporation of an independent test of c-command alongside Principle A sentences like Bart’s dad washed himself with soap. Results did not show problems with Principle A or c-command formulation. Experiment three investigated comprehension of sentences with pronouns subject to Principles B and C (e.g. Jasmine wiped her with a cloth and He covered Ironman with a sheet respectively) to see whether children with autism show a pragmatic delay as assessed by Principle C. The results did not show any deviance either for Principle B or C. The final experiment investigated children’s interpretation of sentences like The boy who is on the bridge will not get a ball or a toy car. This gives rise to the conjunctive entailment of disjunction, that is, the sentence means the boy who is on the bridge will not get a ball and the boy who is on the bridge will not get a toy car. Again the results indicate typical performance. The current findings critically suggest that syntactic development may not be qualitatively different compared to typical linguistic development possibly rendering the slow but normal characterization of language development a more viable approach in autism.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Overview of the literature -- Chapter 2. Theoretical background -- Chapter 3. Reflexives in the grammars of children with autism -- Chapter 4. Constraints on the interpretation of pronouns and names in autism -- Chapter 5. The understanding of logical words in autism -- Chapter 6. Conclusions.


Theoretical thesis. Includes bibliographical references

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Linguistics

Department, Centre or School

Department of Linguistics

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Rosalind Thornton

Additional Supervisor 1

Jon Brock


Copyright Neha Khetrapal 2015. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (xi, 219 pages) colour illustrations

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