Back to list

Detail of contribution

Auteur: Arhonto TERZI

Co-Auteur(s): Theodoros MARINIS, University of Reading, UK Konstantinos FRANCIS, University of Athens, Greece Angeliki KOTSOPOULOU, Technological Educational Institute of Patras, Greece

Grammatical abilities of high functioning Greek-speaking children with ASD

Abstract/Résumé: Background: We present the findings of a recent extensive investigation of the grammar of Greek-speaking children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and report on ongoing research that addresses issues they raise. 20 high functioning Greek-speaking children with ASD, (mean age 6;6) and 20 typically developing (TD) controls, (mean age 6;9) were tested on non-active verbal morphology and pronoun binding, areas that pose difficulties crosslinguistically for language impaired and TD children (Wexler 2004, Conroy et al. 2009 a.o.). Children were individually matched on vocabulary, and were tested on a battery of baseline tasks to ascertain their verbal and non-verbal abilities. ASD children scored significantly lower only on a pragmatics task (based on DELV). Findings: ASD children fell behind their TD controls on binding of clitic pronouns, namely, 88.3% target, but not on the corresponding strong ones, with TD children performing almost at ceiling (99.2%). This difference was significant, and constituted the only difference between the two groups (both groups scored very high on reflexive pronouns, unlike Perovic et al. 2012). Two factors were considered responsible for the lower performance of ASD children on binding of clitics: a) Given that the most common error involved interpreting clitic pronouns as reflexives, we hypothesized that this interpretation may arise by mistaking i ‘the-nom’ for ti ‘the-acc’, hence interpret (1) as (2) respectively, because of problems with case morphology. (1) I mama tin pleni (2) Ti mama tin pleni pro the-nom mom her-cl washes the-acc mom her-cl washes (she/he) ‘Mom washes her.’ ‘(she/he) washes mom.’ b) problems with the conditions under which clitics are used (e.g. Mavrogiorgos 2010 a.o.). We tested factor a) via a grammaticality judgment task based on Zachou & Guasti (2010), in which 12 children of the initial study and their TD controls participated. ASD children differed on judging case mismatches, but only of the subject DP, indicating that they had problems with reanalyzing the sentence rather than with case, as such mismatches are detected once encountering the second DP of the sentence. Moreover, given that ASD children did not make case errors on the production of the morphosyntax baseline task, we concluded that factor b) should also be investigated. To this effect, a clitics production task was run, the results of which are being analyzed. Moreover, further experiments on this domain are currently being designed.