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Pragmatics abilities in narrative production: a cross-disorder comparison*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 April 2013

Royal Holloway, University of London
Winnebago County Special Education Cooperative
Sacred Heart University, Connecticut, USA
Address for Correspondence: Dr Courtenay Frazier Norbury, Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey, TW20 0EX, United Kingdom. tel: +44(0)1784 276 139; e-mail:


We aimed to disentangle contributions of socio-pragmatic and structural language deficits to narrative competence by comparing the narratives of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD; n=25), non-autistic children with language impairments (LI; n=23), and children with typical development (TD; n=27). Groups were matched for age (6½ to 15 years; mean: 10;6) and non-verbal ability; ASD and TD groups were matched on standardized language scores. Despite distinct clinical presentation, children with ASD and LI produced similarly simple narratives that lacked semantic richness and omitted important story elements, when compared to TD peers. Pragmatic errors were common across groups. Within the LI group, pragmatic errors were negatively correlated with story macrostructure scores and with an index of semantic–pragmatic relevance. For the group with ASD, pragmatic errors consisted of comments that, though extraneous, did not detract from the gist of the narrative. These findings underline the importance of both language and socio-pragmatic skill for producing coherent, appropriate narratives.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

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This work was supported by a Nuffield Foundation New Career Development Fellowship and an Experimental Psychology Society study visit grant to C. F. Norbury, and grants K24 HD045576 from U.S. National Institute of Deafness and Communication Disorders and P01-HD03008 from U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Development to R. Paul. The authors are indebted to the children and families who participated in this study.



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