Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Autism Spectrum Disorders

pp 1686-1686


  • Courtenay NorburyAffiliated withPsychology Department, Royal Holloway, University of London Email author 


Language may be defined as a representational rule-based system of arbitrary symbols used to convey information among members of a shared language community. Language symbols may be spoken, written, or signed and may be combined and recombined in ways that enable speakers to convey an infinite number of thoughts, feelings, and ideas. Frith and Happe (1994) distinguish language and communication; we can communicate with others without recourse to a rule-based language system through our gestures, facial expressions, eye gaze, or other actions. Similarly, an individual may possess the words and grammar of his language community but still struggle to communicate. Within ASD, communication disorders are universal, while language impairments are extremely variable (Tager-Flusberg, Paul, & Lord, 2005).

Language is a system of five component parts. Although these may be studied separately, in reality, they are highly interactive. Phonology refers to the sounds of speech and ...

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