Disorders of the pragmatics-cognition interface

Research output: Chapter in book / Conference proceedingChapter in an edited book (as author)Academic researchpeer-review


There is increasing recognition among clinicians and researchers that many pragmatic disorders are related to cognitive deficits of various kinds. This is to be expected given the dependence of utterance interpretation on diverse cognitive skills, ranging from working memory and attention (key executive functions) to inference generation and the attribution of mental states to the minds of interlocutors (theory of mind). This chapter examines a number of pragmatic disorders in children and adults which are strongly influenced by cognitive impairments of executive function skills and/or theory of mind (ToM) abilities. The findings of a small, but growing number of clinical studies which attempt to relate these cognitive deficits to pragmatic disorders are considered. Theories of ToM and executive functions are examined from a pragmatic perspective. Some of these theories are better equipped than others to explain features of utterance interpretation. These theories, it is argued, display ‘pragmatic adequacy’. The chapter concludes with a critical evaluation of the pragmatic adequacy of executive function and ToM theories and considers how further development of these theories might provide a useful account of the cognitive bases of pragmatic disorders.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPerspectives in Pragmatics, Philosophy and Psychology
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NamePerspectives in Pragmatics, Philosophy and Psychology
ISSN (Print)2214-3807
ISSN (Electronic)2214-3815


  • Cognition
  • Executive function and dysfunction
  • Frontal lobes
  • Mental states
  • Theory of mind

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Applied Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Language and Linguistics

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