Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Autism, Prosody, Language, Prosodic Phrasing, Intervention

Major Advisor

Inge-Marie Eigsti

Associate Advisor

Marianne Barton

Associate Advisor

Heather Bortfeld

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Atypical expressive prosody is reported as a consistent challenge for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and is associated with a broad set of clinical impairments including perceptions of oddness from others. Theories of atypical prosody in ASD have attributed these impairments to the broader symptoms of ASD, particularly in the social domain. Using precise analysis of speech timing, the current study examined associations between expressive prosodic phrasing and more general cognitive processes in a group of adolescents with High Functioning Autism (HFA) and an age- and IQ- matched typically developing (TD) control group. Participants completed a psycholinguistics task during which they produced expressive prosody to disambiguate syntactically ambiguous phrases. In addition, they participated in a brief instructive intervention on prosodic phrasing, after which they completed a second prosodic disambiguation task. Results indicated that both HFA and TD groups were competent in using expressive prosodic phrasing to enhance communication. After a brief intervention, both groups increased their use of prosodic phrasing, even when challenged with additional verbal and non-verbal cognitive load tasks. Across groups, the ability to articulate a “good” strategy for managing the tasks’ ambiguity was associated with better performance. In the TD group only, a measure of verbal working memory was also associated with greater use of prosodic phrasing. Implications for current findings are discussed.