Inflectional morphology in high-functioning autism: Evidence for speeded grammatical processing

Matthew Walenski, Stewart H. Mostofsky, Michael T. Ullman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Autism is characterized by language and communication deficits. We investigated grammatical and lexical processes in high-functioning autism by contrasting the production of regular and irregular past-tense forms. Boys with autism and typically developing control boys did not differ in accuracy or error rates. However, boys with autism were significantly faster than controls at producing rule-governed past-tenses (slip-slipped, plim-plimmed, bring-bringed), though not lexically dependent past-tenses (bring-brought, squeeze-squeezed, splim-splam). This pattern mirrors previous findings from Tourette syndrome attributed to abnormalities of frontal/basal-ganglia circuits that underlie grammar. We suggest a similar abnormality underlying language in autism. Importantly, even when children with autism show apparently normal language (e.g., in accuracy or with diagnostic instruments), processes and/or brain structures subserving language may be atypical in the disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1607-1621
Number of pages15
JournalResearch in Autism Spectrum Disorders
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2014


  • Autism
  • Basal-ganglia
  • Language
  • Morphology
  • Past tense
  • Procedural memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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