Individual differences in pronoun reversal

Evidence from two longitudinal case studies

Karen E. Evans*, Katherine Demuth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Pronoun reversal, the use of you for self-reference and I for an addressee, has often been associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and impaired language. However, recent case studies have shown the phenomenon also to occur in typically developing and even precocious talkers. This study examines longitudinal corpus data from two children, a typically developing girl, and a boy with Asperger's syndrome. Both were precocious talkers who reversed the majority of their personal pronouns for several months. A comparison of the children's behaviors revealed quantitative and qualitative differences in pronoun use: the girl showed 'semantic confusion', using second person pronouns for self-reference, whereas the boy showed a discourse-pragmatic deficit related to perspective-taking. The results suggest that there are multiple mechanisms underlying pronoun reversal and provide qualified support for both the Name/Person Hypothesis (Clark, 1978; Charney, 1980b) and the Plurifunctional Pronoun Hypothesis (Chiat, 1982).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-191
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Child Language
Volume39
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012

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