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Evidence for syntactic alignment in children with autism

Allen, M. L. and Haywood, S and Rajendran, Gnanathusharan and Branigan, H. (2011) Evidence for syntactic alignment in children with autism. Developmental Science, 14 (3). pp. 540-548.

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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.