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Cognitive Linguistics

Editor-in-Chief: Divjak, Dagmar / Newman, John

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Volume 25, Issue 3


Dialogic resonance and intersubjective engagement in autism

John W. Du Bois / R. Peter Hobson / Jessica A. Hobson
Published Online: 2014-08-01 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cog-2014-0025


How can we investigate the relation between language and the human capacity for intersubjective engagement? Here we combine insights from linguistics and psychology to study the language of children with autism. We begin by reviewing why it might be worthwhile to study autism from the perspective of dialogic resonance, defined as the catalytic activation of affinities across utterances. Then we report on a controlled study of conversations involving individual children with autism and an interested adult interviewer. According to reliable ratings of the transcribed conversations, each considered as a whole, the speech of participants with autism was characterized by atypical forms of dialogic resonance. On the other hand, the children with autism were similar to control participants insofar as their conversations manifested “typically developed frame grabs” in which dialogic resonance was accompanied by a coherent expansion. These findings were compatible with those that emerged from utterance-by-utterance analyses of the same conversations reported elsewhere (Hobson et al. 2012). To complement the quantitative findings, we present illustrative excerpts of language use. We consider how dialogic resonance relates to structural priming, and consider implications for understanding the relations among intersubjectivity, language, and autism.

Keywords: autism; resonance; dialogic syntax; structural priming; intersubjectivity; identification; stance; attitude; linkage; engagement

About the article

Received: 2011-03-19

Revised: 2014-03-29

Accepted: 2014-04-21

Published Online: 2014-08-01

Published in Print: 2014-08-01

Citation Information: Cognitive Linguistics, Volume 25, Issue 3, Pages 411–441, ISSN (Online) 1613-3641, ISSN (Print) 0936-5907, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cog-2014-0025.

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