Applied Psycholinguistics


Tense marking in children with autism

a1 Temple University
a2 University of Kansas
a3 Boston University School of Medicine


A recent large-scale study identified a subgroup of children with autism who had a language profile similar to that found among children with specific language impairment (SLI), including difficulties with nonsense word repetition, an ability that has been implicated as one clinical marker for SLI. A second clinical marker for English-speaking children with SLI is high rates of omission of grammatical morphemes that mark tense in obligatory contexts. This study used experimental probes designed to elicit third person and past tense morphology with a large heterogeneous sample of children with autism. The subgroup of children with autism who were language impaired showed high rates of omission of tense marking on the experimental tasks. In addition, some of the children with autism made performance errors that were specific to the autistic population, such as echolalia. These findings further refine the characteristics of language impairment found in a subgroup of children with autism.

c1 Lab of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, Department of Anatomy & Neurobiology, Boston University School of Medicine, 715 Albany Street, L-814, Boston, MA 02118-2526. E-mail: