Date of Completion


Embargo Period



pragmatics, autism spectrum disorder, language development

Major Advisor

Letitia Naigles

Associate Advisor

Nicole Landi

Associate Advisor

Inge-Marie Eigsti

Associate Advisor

Mitchell Green

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Communication involves information beyond what is coded in the linguistic stimuli produced by a speaker. How individuals are able to extract additional, pragmatic meaning from a speaker’s utterance (i.e., what kind of skills/knowledge might be involved) is relatively understudied. To address this question, the current study examined 7- to 10-year-old typically developing (TD) children and children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)’s ability to interpret four different pragmatic devices: conventional implicatures, scalar implicatures, relevance implicatures, and metaphors. We were interested in determining whether variability in children with ASD’s ability to process such devices would be found and if so, whether their relative strengths and weaknesses would be related to other deficits often reported in this population (e.g., theory of mind). This may provide insight as to what underlying skills/knowledges are involved in the processing of the different pragmatic devices. To probe the question more directly, we also examined to what extent factors such as working memory, theory of mind, and general language ability predicted TD children’s performance on the pragmatic devices. We found that both TD children and children with ASD demonstrated variability, albeit slightly differently, in their ability to interpret these different devices. We also found that the various contributors predicted performance on the pragmatic devices differently. From these findings, we concluded that different pragmatic devices require different sets of skills/knowledge. Moreover, it appears that pragmatics is acquired in a more piecemeal manner, with different pragmatic devices undergoing different developmental trajectories.

Available for download on Friday, August 24, 2018