Thinking across Cultures

By Donald M. Topping; Doris C. Crowell et al. | Go to book overview

10
Semantic-Pragmatic Disability: A Disorder of Thought?

Michael F. McTear
University of Ulster and University of Hawaii at Manoa


INTRODUCTION

There are many different ways of investigating cognitive processes, including the traditional experimental methods of psychologists, studies of thinking across different cultures, and ethnomethodological accounts of practical reasoning in everyday behavior. In this paper a further source is considered-- examples of disordered thought. Some data taken from a case study of a child with the disorder known in the speech pathology literature as semantic- pragmatic disability is presented and analyzed, in keeping with a strategy common in the social sciences of discovering the workings and structure of a system through an analysis of its malfunctions. Some concepts from Artificial Intelligence (AI) are used to support the analysis, and, at the same time, I show how the study of semantic-pragmatic disorders can provide a perspective on thinking which may be useful to AI.


SEMANTIC-PRAGMATIC DISABILITY

The term semantic-pragmatic disability (SPD) was coined by Rapin and Allen ( 1983) to describe a childhood language disorder in which the primary impairment is in the use of language in everyday conversation and in the comprehension of connected discourse. Syntax and phonology are relatively unaffected, so that these cases present the converse of the sorts of disorder which speech pathologists normally encounter. Several clinical syndromes have been grouped under SPD, including autism, childhood psychosis, and Asperger's syndrome. The following are some commonly reported features in the speech of SPD children:

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