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Auteur: Philippe PRÉVOST

Formal aspects of the language of French-speaking children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: the effect of computational complexity

Abstract/Résumé: While it is acknowledged that many children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) show impairment in formal aspects of language, which in many cases resembles Specific Language Impairment (see, a.o., Bishop et al., 2010; Kjelgaard & Tager-Flusberg, 2001), the nature of language difficulties in ASD is still being debated (see Whitehouse et al., 2007, 2008; Williams et al., 2008). I address the issue of the nature of language impairment in ASD in a study exploring complexity of syntactic computation in French-speaking children with ASD and children with SLI. Recent research has shown that children with SLI avoid syntactic complexity, favoring structures which entail simpler derivations, as measured for example by the nature and the number of syntactic operations that are involved (Jakubowicz, 2005; Jakubowicz & Tuller, 2008; Prévost et al., 2010). The objective of the study is to investigate whether children with ASD behave similarly. Complexity of syntactic computation will be explored via several experimental tasks focusing on constructions such as wh-questions, embedded clauses, and object clitics. Standardized tests of formal language focusing on phonology and morphosyntax will also be administered to the children. Discussion of the results will focus on the extent and the implications of an intersection between ASD and SLI.