Comprehension of literal statements and similes in Cantonese-speaking children with and without autism spectrum disorders

Candice Chi-Hang Cheung, Yicheng Rong, Fei Chen, Si Chen, Man Tak Leung, Tempo Po Yi Tang, Gang Peng

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

While it has been proposed, following relevance theory, that similes can be understood at a purely literal level on a par with literal statements, it remains unclear whether children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders (HFASD) perform similarly to typically developing (TD) children in comprehending literal statements and similes. The present study investigated comprehension of literal statements and similes in Cantonese-speaking children with HFASD and TD children matched on both chronological age and verbal mental age. An utterance-picture matching task was devised to assess their comprehension of literal statements and similes in Cantonese. Overall results showed that Cantonese-speaking children with HFASD performed worse than TD children in comprehending literal statements and similes, and both groups showed more difficulty in comprehending similes than literal statements. After the effects of chronological age and verbal mental age were controlled for, no group difference was found between children with HFASD and TD children in comprehending literal statements, whereas the group difference in simile comprehension still existed, suggesting that children with HFASD showed deficits in comprehending similes relative to TD children. These findings challenge the proposal that similes can be understood at a purely literal level on a par with literal statements. Future studies should investigate the role of different aspects of language ability and different levels of theory-of-mind skills in comprehension of similes and metaphors in children with HFASD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)312-326
JournalClinical Linguistics and Phonetics
Volume34
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jul 2019

Keywords

  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • figurative language
  • literal statements
  • similes
  • vocabulary knowledge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing

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