Pragmatic abilities in autism spectrum disorder: A case study in philosophy and the empirical

Midwest Studies in Philosophy 31 (1):292–317 (2007)
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This article has two aims. The first is to introduce some novel data that highlight rather surprising pragmatic abilities in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The second is to consider a possible implication of these data for an emerging empirical methodology in philosophy of language and mind. In pursuing the first aim, we expect our main audience to be clinicians and linguists interested in pragmatics. It is when we turn to methodological issues that we hope to pique the interest of philosophers. Still, the methodological issue becomes pressing precisely because of the empirical finding—thus the first part is important for the philosophical readers as well. The game plan is as follows. Given our intended dual audience, we begin with background on autism and pragmatics. Some of this material will be familiar to some of our readership, but few will know all of it. (Those who do are invited to skip these sections.) We then present some results from our pilot study on a corpus of speech by people with ASD. The heart of our finding is that certain speakers with ASD, who have severe trouble with familiar pragmatic phenomena such as metaphor and conversational implicature, exhibit surprising abilities with respect to what is often called “pragmatic determinants of what is said.” We turn next to a possible implication of this finding: It seems to suggest that hitherto seemingly promising evidence from ASD about the semantics/pragmatics boundary is..



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Robert Stainton
Western University

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References found in this work

Literal Meaning.François Récanati - 2002 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Logic and Conversation.H. Paul Grice - 1975 - In Maite Ezcurdia & Robert J. Stainton (eds.), The Semantics-Pragmatics Boundary in Philosophy. Broadview Press. pp. 47.

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