Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 155–176 | Cite as

I, you, me, and autism: An experimental study

  • Anthony Lee
  • R. Peter Hobson
  • Shulamuth Chiat
Article

Abstract

The nature of autistic individuals' abnormalities in the use of personal pronouns has been a topic of considerable speculation but little systematic investigation. We tested groups of CA- and verbal MA-matched autistic and nonautistic mentally retarded children and young adults on a series of tasks that involved the comprehension and use of the personal pronouns “I,” “you,” and “me.” All subjects were able to comprehend these pronouns within the test situations, and there were few instances of pronoun reversal. However, autistic subjects were significantly less likely to employ the pronoun “me” in a visual perspective-taking task (when instead they tended to say: ‘I can see the ...’), and lower ability subjects were more likely to use their own proper names rather than personal pronouns in certain photograph-naming tasks. There were also circumstances in which autistic subjects were less likely than controls to employ the pronoun “you” to refer to the experimenter. A high proportion of these autistic subjects were reported to have current difficulties with personal pronouns in their everyday life, and we discuss some alternative interpretations of the results.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. American Psychiatric Association. (1987).Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (3rd ed., rev.). Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
  2. Bartak, L., & Rutter, M. (1974). The use of personal pronouns by autistic children.Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 4, 217–222.Google Scholar
  3. Bettelheim, B. (1967).The empty fortress. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bosch, G. (1970).Infantile autism (D. Jordan & I. Jordan, Trans.) New York: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  5. Brown, R. (1973).A first language: The early stages. London: Allen & Unwin.Google Scholar
  6. Bruner, J. S. (1975). From communication to language—A psychological perspective.Cognition, 3, 255–287.Google Scholar
  7. Charney, R. (1980). Speech roles and the development of personal pronouns.Journal of Child Language, 7, 509–528.Google Scholar
  8. Charney, R. (1981). Pronoun errors in autistic children: Support for a social explanation.British Journal of Disorders of Communication, 15, 39–43.Google Scholar
  9. Chiat, S. (1982). If I were you and you were me: The analysis of pronouns in a pronoun-reversing child.Journal of Child Language, 9, 359–379.Google Scholar
  10. Chiat, S. (1986a). Personal pronouns. In P. Fletcher & M. Garman (Eds.),Language acquisition (2nd ed., pp. 339–355). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Chiat, S. (1986b). Children's pronouns. In U. Wiesemann (Ed.),Pronominal systems (pp. 381–404). Tubingen: Gunter Narr Verlag.Google Scholar
  12. Cooley, C. H. (1902).Human nature and the social order. New York: Scribner.Google Scholar
  13. de Villiers, P. A., & de Villiers, J. G. (1974). On this, that, and the other: Nonegocentrism in very young children.Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 18, 438–447.Google Scholar
  14. Dunn, L. M., Dunn, L. M., Whetton, C., & Pintilie, D. (1982).British Picture Vocabulary Scale. Windsor: NFER-Nelson.Google Scholar
  15. Fay, W. H. (1979). Personal pronouns and the autistic child.Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 9, 247–260.Google Scholar
  16. Fraiberg, S., & Adelson, E. (1977). Self-representation in language and play. In S. Fraiberg (Ed.),Insights from the blind, (pp. 248–270). London: Souvenir Press.Google Scholar
  17. Hobson, R. P. (1989). Beyond cognition: A theory of autism. In G. Dawson (Ed.),Autism: Nature, diagnosis, and treatment, (pp. 22–48). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  18. Hobson, R. P. (1990). On the origins of self and the case of autism.Development and Psychopathology, 2, 163–181.Google Scholar
  19. Hobson, R. P. (1991). Methodological issues for experiments on autistic individuals' perception and understanding of emotion.Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, (in press).Google Scholar
  20. Jordan, R. R. (1989). An experimental comparison of the understanding and use of speaker-addressee personal pronouns in autistic children.British Journal of Disorders of Communication, 24, 169–172.Google Scholar
  21. Kanner, L. (1943). Autistic disturbances of affective contact.Nervous Child, 2, 217–250.Google Scholar
  22. Kasari, C., Sigman, M. D., Baumgartner, P., & Stipek, D. J. (1993). Pride and mastery in children with autism (in press).Google Scholar
  23. Lockyer, L., & Rutter, M. (1970). A five-to fifteen-year follow-up study of infantile psychosis. IV. Patterns of cognitive ability.British Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 9, 152–163.Google Scholar
  24. Loveland, K. A., & Landry, S. H. (1986). Joint attention and language in autism and developmental language delay.Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 16, 335–349.Google Scholar
  25. Mahler, M. S. (1968).On human symbolism and the vicissitudes of individualisation: Infantile psychosis. New York: IUP.Google Scholar
  26. Masangkay, Z. S., McCluskey, K. A., McIntyre, C. W., Sims-Knight, J., Vaughn, B. E., & Flavell, J. H. (1974). The early development of inferences about the visual percepts of others.Child Development, 45, 357–366.Google Scholar
  27. Silberg, J. L. (1978). The development of pronoun usage in the psychotic child.Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 8, 413–425.Google Scholar
  28. Stern, D. N. (1985).The interpersonal world of the infant. New York: Basic.Google Scholar
  29. Tager-Flusberg, H. (1989, April).An analysis of discourse ability and internal state lexicons in a longitudinal study of autistic children. Paper presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Kansas City.Google Scholar
  30. Volden, J., & Lord, C. (1991). Neologisms and idiosyncratic language in autistic speakers.Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 21, 109–130.Google Scholar
  31. Wells, (1975).Language development in the pre-school years. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anthony Lee
    • 1
  • R. Peter Hobson
    • 1
  • Shulamuth Chiat
    • 2
  1. 1.Tavistock Clinic and University CollegeLondon
  2. 2.City UniversityLondon

Personalised recommendations