Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 373–383 | Cite as

Syntax and Morphology in Danish-Speaking Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Cecilia BrynskovEmail author
  • Inge-Marie Eigsti
  • Meta Jørgensen
  • Sanne Lemcke
  • Ocke-Schwen Bohn
  • Peter Krøjgaard
Original Paper


The current study examined delays in syntax and morphology, and vocabulary, in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Children ages 4–6 years with ASD (n = 21) and typical development (n = 21), matched on nonverbal mental age, completed five language tasks. The ASD group had significant delays in both syntax and morphology, and vocabulary measures, with significant within-group heterogeneity; furthermore, syntactic and morphological measures were impaired even for subgroups matched on vocabulary. Children in the ASD group without early language delay showed syntactic and morphological impairment, with intact performance on vocabulary and sentence repetition. Findings indicate that syntactic and morphological impairments are a significant concern for high-functioning children with ASD, and may be overlooked if language evaluation focuses exclusively on vocabulary.


Autism spectrum disorder Vocabulary Syntax Morphology Sentence repetition Early language delay 



We would like to thank the participating children, parents, daycare centers, and the student assistants who helped in the study.


This research was funded by Aarhus University and supported in part by two grants from Augustinus Fonden (09-2372; 10-1366) and one from Fru C. Hermansens Mindelegat (00962-0001) to the first author, and by the Danish National Research Foundation (DNRF93) to the last author. The LEGO Foundation also provided funding.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Author Contributions

Study conception and design: Brynskov, Eigsti, Krøjgaard, Bohn; Acquisition of data: Brynskov, Jorgensen, Lemcke; Analysis and interpretation of data: Brynskov, Eigsti; Drafting of manuscript: Brynskov; Critical revision: Brynskov, Eigsti.

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cecilia Brynskov
    • 1
    Email author
  • Inge-Marie Eigsti
    • 2
  • Meta Jørgensen
    • 3
  • Sanne Lemcke
    • 3
  • Ocke-Schwen Bohn
    • 4
    • 5
  • Peter Krøjgaard
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Psychology and Behavioral SciencesAarhus UniversityAarhusDenmark
  2. 2.Department of Psychological SciencesUniversity of ConnecticutStorrsUSA
  3. 3.Centre for Child and Adolescent PsychiatryAarhus University HospitalAarhusDenmark
  4. 4.Department of EnglishAarhus UniversityAarhusDenmark
  5. 5.Center on Autobiographical Memory Research, Department of Psychology and Behavioral SciencesAarhus UniversityAarhusDenmark

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