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Title: Word learning in non-ostensive contexts : evidence from children with autism
Author: Malone, Stephanie Ann
Awarding Body: Lancaster University
Current Institution: Lancaster University
Date of Award: 2012
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Social-pragmatic accounts of word learning focus on the roles of joint attention (JA) and intention reading (IR) when acquiring new words (Bloom, 2001; Tomasello, 2003). These key social-pragmatic skills are known to be impaired in autism and have been linked to their language difficulties. Although thought to be important in non-ostensive contexts, previous research has provided inconsistent findings concerning the word-learning ability of children with autism (CWA) in these contexts (Franken, Lewis, & Malone, 2010; Parish-Morris, Hennon, Hirsh-Pasek, Michnick Golinkoff, & Tager-Flusberg, 2007). This thesis explores the mechanisms that CWA use when word-learning by drawing upon three non-ostensive paradigms. Word comprehension and production is related to the use of social-pragmatic skills and more general skills, teasing apart the attentional learning account (Smith, Jones & Landau, 1996) and social-pragmatic account (Tomasello, 2003) of language development. CW A were able to learn words at the same level as typically developing children (TDC) and children with moderate learning disabilities (MLDC) in paradigms thought to draw upon IR. Findings pointed to the use of mechanisms alternative to those used by typically developing children (TDC), with these developing through experience and cognitive development. Rather than relying on interpreting the speaker's communicative intentions to learn words, CWA are able to make use of attentional salience (as determined through novelty) or logical reasoning to discern the referent object. It is suggested that these alternative mechanisms are utilised in a confirmatory manner. Specifically, CWA make use of their impaired social-pragmatic skills in order to discern the referent, with the identification of this referent supported by these alternative mechanisms which also highlight the referent object. The findings of these studies have been combined to provide an alternative account of how CW A are able to learn words, thus accounting for their unpredicted word-learning ability.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available