Evidence for syntactic alignment in children with autism

Melissa L. Allen, Sarah Haywood, Thusha Rajendran, Holly Branigan

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    48 Citations (Scopus)


    We report an experiment that examined whether children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) spontaneously converge, or align, syntactic structure with a conversational partner. Children with ASD were more likely to produce a passive structure to describe a picture after hearing their interlocutor use a passive structure to describe an unrelated picture when playing a card game. Furthermore, they converged syntactic structure with their interlocutor to the same extent as did both chronological and verbal age-matched controls. These results suggest that the linguistic impairment that is characteristic of children with ASD, and in particular their difficulty with interactive language usage, cannot be explained in terms of a general deficit in linguistic imitation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)540-548
    Number of pages9
    JournalDevelopmental Science
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - May 2011


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