Development and Psychopathology

Research Article

Once more with feeling: Affect and language in atypical populations

Judy Reillya1, Edward S. Klimaa2 and Ursula Bellugia3 c1

a1 San Diego State University

a2 University of California, San Diego

a3 The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla


The study of clearly identifiable patterns of atypical development can inform normal development in significant ways. Delayed or deviant development puts in high relief not only the sequence of development but also the individual components. This article presents the results of studies that compare adolescents with Williams syndrome, a rare metabolic neurodevelopmental disorder resulting in mental retardation, with cognitively matched adolescents with Down syndrome. We investigate the interaction between affect and language through storytelling. In contrast to the adolescents with Down syndrome, the Williams syndrome subjects tell coherent and complex narratives that make extensive use of affective prosody. Furthermore, stories from the Williams but not the Down subjects are infused with lexically encoded narrative evaluative devices that enrich the referential content of the stories. This contrast in expressivity between two matched atypical groups provides an unusual perspective on the underlying structure of the social cognitive domain.


c1 Address reprint requests to: Ursula Bellugi, Laboratory for Language and Cognitive Studies, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, P.O. Box 85800, San Diego, CA 92816-5800.