The construction of cooperative and inferential meaning by children with Asperger syndrome

Francisco J. Rodríguez Muñoz 1
  • 1 University of Almería, , Spain


This study aims to apply the Gricean theory of conversational cooperation to the example of inferential meaning in the oral speech of children with pragmatic deficit. Firstly, the analysis pays attention to the use of tropic inferences and particularized implicatures in conversation. Secondly, it focuses on the degree of maintenance or flouting with regard to conversational maxims. On average, study participants are 11.15 years old and possess a confirmed clinical diagnosis of Asperger syndrome. Results suggest a rare understanding and production of tropic inferences and particularized implicatures in dialogues, as well as the systematic application of the maxim of quality, the generalized non-fulfilment of the maxim of quantity and different degrees of fulfilment according to the remaining maxims.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Ackerman, B.P., 1981. When is a question not answered? The understanding of young children of utterances violating or conforming to the rule of conversational sequencing. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, vol. 31, no. 3, pp. 487-507.

  • American Psychiatric Association, 2014. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.

  • Attardo, S., 1993. Violation of conversational maxims and cooperation: the case of jokes. Journal of Pragmatics, vol. 19, no. 6, pp. 537-558.

  • Baltaxe, C.A.M., 1977. Pragmatic deficits in the language of autistic adolescent. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, vol. 2, no. 4, pp. 176-180.

  • Barrett, L., 2008. More than little professors-children with Asperger Syndrome: in their own words. Shawnee Mission, Kansas: Autism Asperger Publishing Company.

  • Belinchón, M., Igoa, J.M. and Rivière, Á., 1992. Psicología del lenguaje. Investigación y teoría. Valladolid: Trotta.

  • Bernard-Opitz, V., 1982. Pragmatic analysis of communicative behaviour of an autistic child. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, vol. 47, pp. 99-109.

  • Bishop, D.V.M. and Adams, C., 1989. Conversational characteristics of children with sematic-pragmatic disorder II: What features lead to a judgement of inappropriacy? British Journal of Disorders of Communication, vol. 24, no. 3, pp. 241-263.

  • Braun, C.M.J., Dumont, M., Duval, J. and Hamel-Hébert, I., 2004. Speech rate as a sticky switch: A multiple lesion case analysis. Brain and Language, vol. 89, no. 1, pp. 243-252.

  • Brown, P. and Levinson, S., 1978. Universals in language usage: politeness phenomena. In: E. N. Goody, ed. Questions and Politeness: Strategies in Social Interaction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 56-289.

  • Conti, D.J. and Camras, L.A., 1984. Children’s understanding of conversational principles. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, vol. 38, no. 3, pp. 456-463.

  • Dascal, M., 1999. La pragmática y las intenciones comunicativas. In: M. Dascal, ed. Filosofía del Lenguaje II. Pragmática. Madrid: Trotta, pp. 21-45.

  • Davies, B.L., 2007. Grice’s cooperative principle: meaning and rationality. Journal of Pragmatics, vol. 39, no. 12, pp. 2308-2331.

  • Fernández-Urquiza, M., Díaz Martínez, F., Moreno Campos, V., Lázaro López-Villaseñor, M. and Simón López, T., 2015. PREP-R. Protocolo Rápido de Evaluación Pragmática Revisado. Valencia: Universidad de Valencia.

  • Gagnon, L., Mottron, L. and Joanette, Y., 1997. Questioning the validity of the semantic-pragmatic syndrome diagnosis. Autism, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 37-55.

  • Gallardo, B., 2005. Categorías inferenciales en pragmática clínica. Revista de neurología, vol. 41, suppl. 1, pp. 65-71.

  • Gallardo, B., 2006. Más allá de las palabras y su estructura: las categorías del componente pragmático. In: E. Garayzábal, ed. Lingüística Clínica y Logopedia. Madrid: Antonio Machado Libros, pp. 81-196.

  • Gallardo, B., 2007. Pragmática para logopedas. Cádiz: Universidad de Cádiz.

  • Gallardo, B., 2009. Valoración del componente pragmático a partir de datos orales. Revista de neurología, vol. 48, suppl. 2, pp. 57-61.

  • Gray, C., Attwood, T. and Holliday-Willey, L., 1999. The discovery of ‘Aspie’ criteria by Attwood and Gray. The Morning News, vol. 11, no. 3, pp. 18-28.

  • Grice, H.P., 1975. Logic and conversation. In: P. Cole and J. L. Morgan, eds. Syntax and Semantics, vol. 3: Speech Acts. New York: Academic Press, pp. 41-58.

  • Grice, H.P., 1989. Studies in the Way of Words. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

  • Gutiérrez Calvo, M., 1999. Inferencias en la comprensión del lenguaje. In: M. de Vega and F. Cuetos, eds. Psicolingüística del español. Madrid: Trotta, pp. 231-270.

  • Happé, F.G.E., 1993. Communicative competence and theory of mind in autism: a test for relevance theory. Cognition, vol. 48, no. 2, pp. 101-119.

  • Harpur, J., Lawlor, M. and Fitzgerald, M., 2006. Succeeding with Interventions for Asperger Syndrome Adolescents: A Guide to Communication and Socialisation in Interaction Therapy. London/Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley.

  • McAlonan, G.M., Daly, E., Kumari, V., Critchley, H.D., van Amelsvoort, T., Suckling, J., Simmons, A., Sigmundsson, T., Greenwood, K., Russell, A., Schmitz, N., Happé, F., Howlin, P. and Murphy, D.G.M., 2002. Brain anatomy and sensorimotor gating in Asperger’s syndrome. Brain, vol. 125, no. 7, pp. 1594-1606.

  • McPartland, J. and Klin, A., 2006. Asperger’s syndrome. Adolescent Medicine Clinics, vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 771-788.

  • Monfort, M. and Monfort, I., 2001. En la mente. Madrid: Entha Ediciones.

  • Moreno Campos, V., 2008. Sobre el concepto de inferencia: un diálogo entre lingüística y psicología. In: S. Díaz and A. Goin, eds. Territorios en red: prácticas culturales y análisis del discurso. Madrid: Biblioteca Nueva, pp. 159-178.

  • Paul, R., Miles Orlovski, S., Marcinko, H.C. and Volkmar, F.R., 2009. Conversational behaviors in youth with high-functioning ASD and Asperger syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, vol. 39, no. 1, pp. 115-125.

  • Rapin, I. and Allen, D.A., 1983. Developmental language disorders: nostologic consideration. In: U. Kirk, ed. Neuropsychology of language, reading and spelling. New York: Academic Press, pp. 155-184.

  • Rodríguez Muñoz, F.J., 2009. Síndrome de Asperger. Materiales y aproximación pragmalingüística. Valencia: Universidad de Valencia.

  • Rodríguez Muñoz, F.J., 2012. Los déficits pragmáticos en el discurso oral de niños con Síndrome de Asperger. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Almería: Universidad de Almería.

  • Rodríguez Muñoz, F.J., 2013a. Evaluación pragmática de niños con síndrome de Asperger (Studies in Pragmatics, 25). Munich: LINCOM Europa.

  • Rodríguez Muñoz, F.J., 2013b. Pilot assessment of nonverbal pragmatic ability in people with Asperger syndrome. Psychology of Language and Communication, vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 279-294.

  • Rodríguez Muñoz, F.J., 2014. Corpus oral de hablantes con desarrollo típico y síndrome de Asperger. Berlin: Logos Verlag.

  • Rodríguez Muñoz, F.J., 2017. La descompensación entre las habilidades de carácter gramatical y pragmático en el discurso oral de niños con síndrome de Asperger. Oralia, vol. 20, pp. 247-273.

  • Rutter, M., Bailey, A. and Lord, C., 2003. The Social Communication Questionnaire. Los Angeles, CA: Western Psychological Services.

  • Sotillo, M. and Rivière, A., 2001. Cuando los niños usan las palabras para engañar: la mentira como instrumento al servicio del desarrollo de las habilidades de inferencia mentalista. Infancia y Aprendizaje, vol. 24, no. 3, pp. 291-305.

  • Sperber, D. and Wilson, D., 1995. Relevance. Communication and Cognition, 2nd edition. Oxford: Blackwell.

  • Surian, L., 1991. Do children exploit the Maxim of Antecedent in order to interpret ambiguous descriptions? Journal of Child Language, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 451-457.

  • Surian, L. and Job, R., 1987. Children’s use of conversational rules in a referential communication task. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, vol. 16, no. 4, pp. 369-382.

  • Surian, L., Baron-Cohen, S. and van der Lely, H., 1996. Are children with autism deaf to Gricean maxims? Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 55-72.

  • Surian, L., Tedoldi, M. and Siegal, M., 2010. Sensitivity to conversational maxims in deaf and hearing children. Journal of Child Language, vol. 37, no. 4, pp. 929-943.


Journal + Issues