Workshop: Linguistic and cognitive deficits in developmental and acquired language disorders

This special session takes as its starting point the organization of language in the brain through the study of developmental disorders, aphasia and neuro-typical language acquisition. It is designed to evaluate and extend our understanding of how language disorders impact language production and comprehension, as well as individuals’ non-verbal executive functions, and what this means for theories of language processing and its interaction with non-verbal cognition.

Research on aphasia in adults and on developmental disorders in children has held a central place in the development of psycholinguistics and neurolinguistics over the past three decades. The observation that the deficits in developmental and acquired language disorders are not random but rather exhibit systematic patterns, make the study of disorders an obvious context for investigating human linguistic capacity. For instance, detailed analysis of the language decline patterns in agrammatic aphasia point to selective impairments of language processes, with access to classes of grammatical morphemes being more impaired relative to content words (Goodglass, 1976; Goodglass et al., 1993; Menn & Obler, 1989; Thompson et al., 1995). Relatively little attention has been paid to primary progressive aphasia, which is a recently described neurodegenerative syndrome caused by brain atrophy rather than a focal brain lesion (Mesulam & Weintraub, 1992; Weintraub et al., 1990). Besides exploring the narrow linguistic profile of persons with an acquired language disorder, there is an increasing recognition that the language deficits in aphasia are not solely due to a faulty linguistic system but may depend on the integrity of executive function skills (Fridriksson et al., 2006; Peristeri & Tsimpli, 2014; Purdy, 2002).

Developmental disorders in children also offer a unique window into how the human mind is organized for language as well as how other domains of cognition are involved in language development, comprehension and production. Besides the well-documented genetic and phenotypic heterogeneity in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) (Betancur, 2011; Georgiades et al., 2011), pragmatic and social cognition difficulties have been found to pose disproportionally greater challenges for verbally-able children with ASD relative to lexical-semantics and narrow morpho-syntax (Perovic et al., 2013; Schaeffer et al., 2014; Terzi et al., 2014; Terzi et al., 2016). Nonetheless, the heterogeneity within children with autism presents challenges, both with respect to diagnosis and intervention. Crucially, language difficulties in autism have been associated with several developmental disorders such as Specific Language Impairment (SLI) and intellectual disability (Conti-Ramsden & Durkin, 2012). The language and cognitive profile of children with developmental disorders becomes more complex in bilingual contexts. While many studies have examined the impact of bilingualism on executive functions in typically-developing children (Carlson & Meltzoff, 2008; Bialystok, 2011; Bialystok & Martin, 2004; Bialystok & Viswanathan, 2009), few have investigated this relationship in children with a developmental disorder (Baldimtsi et al., 2016; Tsimpli, Peristeri, & Andreou, 2016). The aim of this workshop is to bring together current research on the processing systems of individuals with an acquired or a developmental disorder in order to revisit questions about the architecture of the language system and its relationship to other aspects of cognitive skills which interact with language. Experimental research is welcome on any topic of phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics, as well as on non-verbal cognitive control functions. Although the focus of the event is impaired language, research on typical monolingual or bilingual language development will also be considered.

Topics of interest for submission include, but are not limited to:

The workshop will be part of the 23rd International Symposium on Theoretical and Applied Linguistics (ISTAL 23), organized by the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, School of English, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, to be held March 31-April 2, 2017, in Thessaloniki, Greece. Please send us (Eleni Peristeri a 300-word abstract of your paper no later than December 15, 2016.


Baldimtsi, E., Peristeri, E., Tsimpli, I. M., & Nicolopoulou, A. 2016. In: J. Scott & D. Waughtal (eds), BUCLD 40: Proceedings of the 40th annual Boston University Conference on Language Development, 18-31.Cascadilla Press.

Betancur, C. 2011. Etiological heterogeneity in autism spectrum disorders: more than 100 genetic and genomic disorders and still counting. Brain Research 1380: 42-77.

Bialystok, E. 2011. Reshaping the mind: The benefits of bilingualism. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology 65: 229-235.

Bialystok, E., & Martin, M. M. 2004. Attention and inhibition in bilingual children: Evidence from the dimensional change card sort task. Developmental Science 7: 325-339.

Bialystok, E., & Viswanathan, M. 2009. Components of executive control with advantages for bilingual children in two cultures. Cognition 112: 494-500.

Carlson, S. M., & Meltzoff, A. N. 2008. Bilingual experience and executive functioning in young children. Developmental Science 11: 282-298.

Conti-Ramsden, G., & Durkin, K. 2012. Language development and assessment in the preschool period. Neuropsychology Review 22: 384-401.

Fridriksson, J., Nettles, C., Davis, M., Morrow, L., & Montgomery, A. 2006. Functional communication and executive function in aphasia. Clinical linguistics & phonetics: 20.6: 401-410.

Georgiades, S., Szatmari, P., Duku, E., Zwaigenbaum, L., Bryson, S., Roberts, W., Goldberg, J., & Mahoney, W. 2011. Phenotypic overlap between core diagnostic features and emotional/behavioral problems in preschool children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 41: 1321-1329.

Goodglass, H. 1976. Agrammatism. In: H. Whitaker & H. A. Whitaker (eds), Studies in neurolinguistics, 237-260. New York: Academic Press.

Goodglass, H., Christiansen, J. A., & Gallagher, R. 1993. Comparison of morphology and syntax in free narrative and structured tests: Fluent vs nonfluent aphasics. Cortex 29: 377-407.

Menn, L., & Obler, L. 1989. Agrammatic aphasia: A cross-language narrative sourcebook. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Mesulam, M. M, & Weintraub, S. 1992. Spectrum of primary progressive aphasia. In: M. N. Rossor (eds), Unusual Dementias, 583-609. Bailliere Tindall, London.

Peristeri, E., & Tsimpli, I. M. 2014. Linguistic Processing and Executive Control: Evidence for Inhibition in Broca’s Aphasia. In: N. Lavidas, T. Alexiou, & A. M. Sougari (eds), Major Trends in Theoretical and Applied Linguistics: Selected Papers from the 20th ISTAL, 455-470. London: Versita de Gruyter.

Perovic, A., Modyanova, N., & Wexler, K. 2013. Comparison of grammar in neurodevelopmental disorders: The case of binding in Williams syndrome and autism with and without language impairment. Language Acquisition 20: 133-154.

Purdy, M. H. 2002. Executive function ability in persons with aphasia. Aphasiology 16.2: 549-557.

Schaeffer, J. C., Witteloostuijn, & M., Haan, D. 2014. Article choice in children with High Functioning Autism (HFA) and in children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI). Linguistics in the Netherlands 31: 107-128.

Terzi, A., Marinis, T., Kotsopoulou, A., & Francis, K. 2014. Grammatical abilities of Greek-speaking children with autism. Language Acquisition 21: 4-44.

Terzi, A., Marinis, T., & Francis, K. 2016. The Interface of Syntax with Pragmatics and Prosody in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 46: 2692-2706.

Thompson, C. K., Shapiro, L. P., Li, L., & Schendel, L. 1995. Analysis of verbs and verb argument structure: A method for quantification of agrammatic language production. Clinical Aphasiology 23: 121-140.

Tsimpli, I. M., Peristeri, E., & Andreou, M. 2016. Narrative production in monolingual and bilingual children with specific language impairment. Applied Psycholinguistics 37.1: 195-216.

Weintraub, S., Rubin, N. P., & Mesulam, M. M. 1990. Primary progressive aphasia. Longitudinal course, neuropsychological profile, and language features. Archives of neurology 47: 1329-1335.