Relative clause production abilities of Hebrew-speaking children with ASD

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Relative clauses (RCs) are complex syntactic structures because they consist of multiple clauses and involve syntactic movement. RCs are known as a reliable clinical marker of syntactic impairment across many different languages and populations. Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) struggle with the comprehension and production of RCs, and it remains unclear whether these difficulties stem from a pragmatic or a syntactic origin. The aim of the current study is to obtain evidence about the nature of the RC production difficulties of Hebrew-speaking children with ASD. To do so, we attempted to isolate the mechanism(s) that may be disrupting RC production by using a novel in-depth error analysis scheme. The current study tested 101 Hebrew-speaking children—37 children with ASD (Mage = 11.4, SD = 2.2) and 64 Typically Developing (TD) children; 25 children aged 8-9 years (Mage = 8.8, SD = 0.3) and 39 TD children aged 10-11 (Mage = 10.7, SD = 0.39) on an RC elicitation definition task. Responses were coded for correct RC production, and an error analysis scheme was built based on the productions seen among the ASD participants. TD children produced more RCs than children with ASD, and a significant difference was found between the two TD groups (older children produced more RCs). Children with ASD produced mainly pronoun errors and produced single words instead of sentences, patterns not seen among the TD group and sometimes characteristic of Hebrew-speaking children at younger ages. The current study contributes to the discussion regarding syntactic differences seen in the production of some children with ASD and whether such differences are a specific form of language deficit, or merely a delay in language acquisition.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
JournalLanguage Acquisition
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

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© 2023 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


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