Perception of Dialect Variation by Young Adults with High-Functioning Autism

  • Cynthia G. Clopper
  • Kristin L. Rohrbeck
  • Laura Wagner
Original Paper


The linguistic profile of people with Autism spectrum disorders typically involves intact perceptual processing, accompanied by deficits in the social functions of language. In a series of three experiments, the impact of this profile on the perception of regional dialect was examined. Young adults with High-Functioning Autism exhibited similar performance to a typically developing comparison group in regional dialect classification and localness rating tasks, suggesting that they can use indexical information in speech to make judgments about the regional background of unfamiliar talkers. However, the participants with High-Functioning Autism were less able to differentiate among the dialects in a language attitudes task, suggesting that they do not share social stereotypes related to dialect variation with the typically developing comparison group.


Dialect Speech perception Language attitudes Social language High-Functioning Autism 



This research was partially funded by a seed grant from the Ohio State University Center for Cognitive Science. We thank Jeff Siegel, Bridget Smith, and Renee Devlin for their help with this research.


  1. Alcántara, J. I., Weisblatt, E. J. L., Moore, B. C. J., & Bolton, P. F. (2004). Speech-in-noise perception in high-functioning individuals with autism or Asperger’s syndrome. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 45, 1107–1114.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baker, W., Eddington, D., & Nay, L. (2009). Dialect identification: The effects of region of origin and amount of experience. American Speech, 84, 48–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baron-Cohen, S., & Staunton, R. (1994). Do children with autism acquire the phonology of their peers? An examination of group identification through the window of bilingualism. First Language, 14(42, pt 3), 241–248.Google Scholar
  4. Baron-Cohen, S., Tager-Flusberg, H., & Cohen, D. J. (2000). Understanding other minds: Perspectives from developmental cognitive neuroscience. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Skinner, R., Martin, J., & Clubley, E. (2001). The autism-spectrum quotient (AQ): Evidence from Asperger syndrome/high-functioning autism, males and females, scientists and mathematicians. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 31(1), 5–17.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bishop, D. V. M., Maybery, M., Wong, D., Maley, A., Hill, W., & Hallmayer, J. (2004). Are phonological processing deficits part of the broad autism phenotype? American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B (Neuropsychiatric Genetics), 128B, 54–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Boucher, J., Lewis, V., & Collis, G. M. (2000). Voice processing abilities in children with autism, children with specific language impairments, and young typically developing children. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 41, 847–857.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chambers, J. (2002). Dynamics of dialect convergence. Sociolinguistics, 6, 117–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Clopper, C. G., & Bradlow, A. R. (2009). Free classification of American English dialects by native and non-native listeners. Journal of Phonetics, 37, 436–451.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Clopper, C. G., & Pisoni, D. B. (2004a). Homebodies and army brats: Some effects of early linguistic experience and residential history on dialect categorization. Language Variation and Change, 16, 31–48.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Clopper, C. G., & Pisoni, D. B. (2004b). Some acoustic cues for the perceptual categorization of American English regional dialects. Journal of Phonetics, 32, 111–140.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Clopper, C. G., & Pisoni, D. B. (2006). Effects of region of origin and geographic mobility on perceptual dialect categorization. Language Variation and Change, 18, 193–221.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Clopper, C. G., & Pisoni, D. B. (2007). Free classification of regional dialects of American English. Journal of Phonetics, 35, 421–438.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Constantino, J. N., Yang, D., Gray, T. L., Gross, M. M., Abbacchi, A. M., Smith, S. C., et al. (2007). Clarifying the associations between language and social development in autism: A study of non-native phoneme recognition. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 37(7), 1256–1263.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Corter, J. E. (1982). ADDTREE/P: A PASCAL program for fitting additive trees based on Sattath and Tversky’s ADDTREE algorithm. Behavior Research Methods and Instrumentation, 14, 353–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fisher, W. M., Doddington, G. R., & Goudie-Marshall, K. M. (1986). The DARPA speech recognition research database: Specifications and status. Proceedings of the DARPA speech recognition workshop (pp. 93–99).Google Scholar
  17. Gallois, C., & Callan, V. (1989). Attitudes to spoken Australian English: Judgments of ingroup and ethnic outgroup speakers. Australian Journal of Linguistics, 9, 149–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Giles, H. (1970). Evaluative reactions to accents. Educational Review, 22, 211–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Golan, O., Baron-Cohen, S., Hill, J. J., & Rutherford, M. D. (2007). The ‘reading the mind in the voice’ test-revised: A study of complex emotion recognition in adults with and without Autism Spectrum conditions. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 37, 1096–1106.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Happé, F., & Frith, U. (2006). The weak coherence account: Detail-focused cognitive style in autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36(1), 5–25.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hubbard, K., & Trauner, D. A. (2007). Intonation and emotion in autistic spectrum disorders. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 36(2), 159–173.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Imaizumi, S., Furuya, I., & Yamasaki, K. (2009). Voice as a tool communicating intentions. Logopedics Phoniatrics Vocology, 34(4), 196–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jarvinen-Pasley, A., Pasley, J., & Heaton, P. (2008a). Is the linguistic content of speech less salient than its perceptual features in autism? Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38(2), 239–248.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jarvinen-Pasley, A., Wallace, G. L., Ramus, F., Happé, F., & Heaton, P. (2008b). Enhanced perceptual processing of speech in autism. Developmental Science, 11(1), 109–121.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ketelaars, C., Horowitz, E., Sytema, S., Bos, J., Wiersma, D., Minderaa, R., et al. (2008). Brief report: Adults with mild autism spectrum disroders (ASD): Scores on the autism spectrum quotient (AQ) and comorbid psychopathology. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38, 176–180.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Klatt, D. H. (1989). Review of selected models of speech perception. In W. Marslen-Wilson (Ed.), Lexical representation and process (pp. 169–226). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  27. Ladefoged, P., & Broadbent, D. E. (1957). Information conveyed by vowels. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 29, 98–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ladegaard, H. J. (1998a). National stereotypes and language attitudes: The perception of British, American and Australian language and culture in Denmark. Language & Communication, 18, 251–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ladegaard, H. J. (1998b). Assessing national stereotypes in language attitude studies: The case of class-consciousness in Denmark. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 19, 182–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lambert, W. E., Hodgson, R. C., Gardner, R. C., & Fillenbaum, S. (1960). Evaluational reactions to spoken language. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 60, 44–51.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lass, N. J., Hughes, K. R., Bowyer, M. D., Waters, L. T., & Bourne, V. (1976). Speaker sex identification from voiced, whispered, and filtered isolated vowels. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 59, 675–678.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lass, N. J., Tecca, J. E., Mancuso, R. A., & Black, W. I. (1979). The effect of phonetic complexity on speaker race and sex identification. Journal of Phonetics, 7, 105–118.Google Scholar
  33. Luhman, R. (1990). Appalachian English stereotypes: Language attitudes in Kentucky. Language in Society, 19, 331–348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. McCann, J., Peppe, S., Gibbon, F. E., O’Hare, A., & Rutherford, M. (2007). Prosody and its relationship to language in school-aged children with high-functioning autism. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 42(6), 682–702.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mottron, L., Dawson, M., Soulières, I., Hubert, B., & Burack, J. (2006). Enhanced perceptual functioning in autism: An update, and eight principles of autistic perception. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36(1), 27–43.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Nober, E. H., & Simmons, J. Q. (1981). Comparison of auditory stimulus processing in normal and autistic adolescents. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 11, 175–189.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Paul, R., Augustyn, A., Klin, A., & Volkmar, F. R. (2005). Perception and production of prosody by speakers with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 35(2), 205–220.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Pollack, I., Pickett, J. M., & Sumby, W. H. (1954). On the identification of speakers by voice. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 26, 403–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Preston, D. R. (1993). Folk dialectology. In D. R. Preston (Ed.), American dialect research (pp. 333–378). Philadelphia: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  40. Ptacek, P. H., & Sander, E. K. (1966). Age recognition from voice. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 9, 273–277.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Purnell, T., Idsardi, W., & Baugh, J. (1999). Perceptual and phonetic experiments on American English dialect identification. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 18, 10–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Rice, M. L., Warren, S. F., & Betz, S. K. (2005). Language symptoms of developmental language disorders: An overview of autism, Down syndrome, fragile X, specific language impairment, and Williams syndrome. Applied Psycholinguistics, 26(1), 7–27.Google Scholar
  43. Van Bezooijen, R., & Gooskens, C. (1999). Identification of language varieties: The contribution of different linguistic levels. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 18, 31–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Van Lancker, D., Kreiman, J., & Emmorey, K. (1985). Familiar voice recognition: Patterns and parameters part I: Recognition of backward voices. Journal of Phonetics, 13, 19–38.Google Scholar
  45. Volden, J., Magili-Evans, J., Goulden, K., & Clarke, M. (2007). Varying language register according to listener needs in speakers with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 37, 1139–1154.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Volden, J., & Sorenson, A. (2009). Bossy and nice requests: Varying language register in speakers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Journal of Communication Disorders, 42, 58–73.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Williams, A., Garrett, P., & Coupland, N. (1999). Dialect recognition. In D. R. Preston (Ed.), Handbook of perceptual dialectology (pp. 345–358). Philadelphia: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  48. Woodbury-Smith, M. R., Robinson, J., Wheelwright, S., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2005). Screening adults for Asperger Syndrome using the AQ: A preliminary study of its diagnostic validity in clinical practice. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 35, 331–335.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cynthia G. Clopper
    • 1
  • Kristin L. Rohrbeck
    • 2
  • Laura Wagner
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsOhio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyOhio State UniversityColumbusUSA

Personalised recommendations