Contextualism and Echolalia
This paper argues for the need to distinguish more clearly between the presence of a communicative intention (that a speaker is attempting to communicate something) and the content of the speaker’s utterance (what that is that they are trying to communicate), and consider the role of contextual information in the recognition of the former, independently of the latter. The paper uses experimental and clinical evidence from studies on echolalia (a common symptom of autism spectrum disorder, in which a child repeats verbatim other people’s utterances) to demonstrate the possibility of a speaker who utters conventional, supposedly meaningful sentences, in a seemingly automatic and noncommunicative manner. As a result, the listener is forced to rely on the wide context to determine the presence or absence of a communicative intention behind the speaker’s utterance, as a condition for interpreting the content of the utterance.
KeywordsContextualism Communicative intention Pragmatic interpretation Wide context Echolalia Autism spectrum disorder Language development
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