Does imitation facilitate the acquisition of grammar? Evidence from a study of autistic, Down's syndrome and normal children.

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Susan D. Calkins, Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: This paper re-opens the question of whether imitation plays a sig-nificant role in the acquisition of grammar. Data for this study came from four samples of naturalistic mother-child speech taken over the course of one year from four autistic, four Down's syndrome and four normal children, covering a range of MLU stages. In general, autistic children used more formulaic language, including imitations, than Down's syndrome children, who in turn used more than the normal children. Comparisons of imitative and spontaneous corpora from the same transcripts were made using MLU and the Index of Productive Syntax. The main findings were that, with few exceptions, spontaneous speech utterances were longer, and contained more advanced gram-matical constructions than did the imitation utterances. These findings held across all three groups of subjects. We conclude that imitation does not facilitate grammatical development.

Additional Information

Journal of Child Language, 17, 591-606
Language: English
Date: 1990
Autism, Down's syndrome, Grammar, child development, education, Autistic children

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