Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-cjp7w Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-21T08:17:53.287Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Responses to contingent queries in adults with mental retardation and pervasive developmental disorders

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 November 2008

Rhea Paul*
Yale Child Study Center
Donald J. Cohen
Yale Child Study Center
Rhea Paul, Yale Child Study Center, P.O. Box 3333, New Haven, CT 06510


Eight young adults with autism and autistic-like pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) and eight mentally retarded adults were matched for nonverbal IQ and given a series of standard language tests. They were then engaged in conversations into which examiners injected three types of contingent query requests for clarification (‘I watched “Dynasty” last night.’ “You watched what?”). Results of the standard language measures revealed that the PDD group was inferior in all areas except articulation. Responses to the contingent, query task showed the PDD group to be both less specific and less willing to supply information beyond that directly queried. Implications of these results for understanding the social and linguistic deficiencies in autism are discussed.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1984

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual, 3rd Ed., Washingtion, D. C.: Author, 1980.Google Scholar
Ball, J. A pragmatic analysis of autistic children’s language with respect to aphasic and normal language development. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Melbourne University, 1978.Google Scholar
Baltaxe, C.Pragmatic deficits in the language of autistic adolescents. Journal of Pediatric Psychology. 1977, 2, 176–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Barlak, L., Rutter, M., & Cox, A.A comparative study of infantile autism and specific developmental language disorder. III. Discriminant function analysis. Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 1977, 7, 383–96.Google Scholar
Brown, R.A first language. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1973.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Carrow, E.Test for auditory comprehension of language. New York: Teaching Resources, 1973.Google Scholar
Fay, W.On the basis of autistic echolalia. Journal of Communication Disorders, 1971, 36, 242–49.Google Scholar
Fein, D., & Waterhouse, L.Autism is not a disorder of language. Paper presented at the New England Child Language Association, Boston, Mass., 02 1979.Google Scholar
Gallagher, T.Contingent query sequences within adult-child discourse. Journal of Child Language, 1981, 8, 5162.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Garvey, C.Request and responses in children’s speech. Journal of Child Language, 1975, 2, 4163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Garvey, C. The contingent query: A dependent act in conversation. In Lewis, M. & Rosenbaum, L. (Eds.), Interaction, conversation and the development of language. New York: Wiley, 1977.Google Scholar
Grice, P. Logic in conversation. In Cole, P. & Morgan, J. (Eds.), Syntax and semantics (Vol. 3) Speech Acts. New York: Academic Press, 1975.Google Scholar
Hermelin, B., & O’Connor, N.Psychological experiments with autistic children. Oxford: Pergamon Press. 1970.Google Scholar
Kanner, L.Autistic disturbances of affective contact. Nervous Child, 1943, 2, 217–50.Google Scholar
Miller, J.Assessing language production in children. Baltimore: University Park Press, 1981.Google Scholar
Newcomer, P., & Hammil, D.Test of language development. Austin, Tex.: Empiric Press, 1977.Google Scholar
Pierce, S., & Bartolucci, G.A syntactic investigation of verbal autistic, mentally retarded, and normal children. Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 1977, 7, 121–34.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Prior, M.Psycholinguistic abilities of autistic and retarded children. Journal of Mental Deficiency Research, 1977, 21, 3745.Google Scholar
Prizant, B.Language acquisition and communicative behavior in autism. Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 1983, 45, 296307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sigman, S., Ungerer, S., and Mundy, P. Cognitive functioning in autistic children. In Cohen, D. and Donnellan, A. (Eds.), Handbook of autism and atypical development. New York: Wiley, 1986.Google Scholar
Tager-Flusberg, H.Sentence comprehension in autistic children. Applied Psycholinguistics, 1981, 2, 524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wechsler, D.Wechsler adult intelligence scale. New York: Psychological Corporation, 1976.Google Scholar
Wiig, E., & Semel, E.Clinical evaluation of language functions. Columbus, Ohio: Charles Merrill, 1980.Google Scholar