CAT SPECIAL LECTURE by DR ALEX PEROVIC (University College London):

Grammar in Developmental Disorders: Evidence from Binding

The usual CAT rule applies for this event: Everyone is welcome! After the talk, we'll all have dinner at the Syrian-Arab Friendship Club. Please email Lena Papadopoulou, the CAT Coordinator, if you want to come along.


Friday, 11 June 2010: 18.00–20.00.


At European University Cyprus in Nicosia (the former Cyprus College): room T.B.A.


Dr Alex Perovic is a teaching fellow in the Division of Psychology and Langage Sciences at University College London.


We discuss the knowledge of binding principles, the constraints governing the interpretation of reflexive as opposed to personal pronouns, in Williams syndrome (WS), Down syndrome (DS) and autism. It has been shown that typically developing children find pronouns more difficult than reflexives (the famously termed ‘Delay of Principle B Effect’), a pattern explained by invoking the distinct nature of grammatical principles guiding the interpretation of the reflexive (binding - syntactic constraints) as opposed to personal pronouns (coreference - extra-syntactic/pragmatic constraints) (Chien & Wexler, 1990; Grodzinsky & Reinhart, 1993). If language in children with developmental disorders develops in a fashion parallel to TD, but at a slower rate, a similar pattern of difficulties with pronouns, but not reflexives, is expected.

Our experimental results reveal that the knowledge of constraints governing pronouns is comparable to that of TD matched controls in all three groups, in line with a general language delay symptomatic of the three disorders. In contrast, the syntactic constraints governing reflexives seem severely delayed/impaired in DS and autism, but not in WS. These findings suggest that language development in WS, autism and DS follows a different developmental path, despite the general language delays and intellectual impairments present in all three populations, and that grammar seems specifically impaired in DS and autism, but not in WS.