The Acquisition of Basic Word Order by Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Keywords: Language Acquisition, autism spectrum disorder, word order, Jordanian Arabic


Purpose. This paper reports on an investigation of Arabic word order acquisition by twelve Jordanian children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and the reasons for this order of acquisition. This study researched the following questions: (1). Which word order do Jordanian Arabic speaking children with ASD prefer? (2). Why do children with ASD prefer this word order?

Methods and Procedure. The study sample consisted of 12 autistic children (mean age of nine, two females, ten males) attending Tawasul Center for Autism, Amman, Jordan. Such a ratio is logical since there are more male than female autistic children, as concluded in multiple studies. In the present study, the participants’ native language is JA, which facilitated communication between the children and researchers since the latter are also JA native speakers. The sample’s ASD severity level was moderate with a nonverbal IQ of around 45. These 12 children were selected because their L1 proficiency was approximately the same and their mental age was around 6, based on an annual test conducted by the center. In addition, none of these children had any specific language impairments, suggesting that the sample was homogenous and heterogeneous regarding language skills. Concerning ethical approval, consent was obtained from the center and the children’s parents to conduct the tests on the children in the center. Participants from the Tawasul Center for Autism in Amman, Jordan, were asked to describe what they saw in ten different pictures and their responses were recorded. These responses can be divided into two types: SV word order and VS word order.

Results. The results indicate that SV word order structures were used more often than VS structures. The results of the t-test revealed a statistically significant difference between the two in favor of subject-verb-object (SVO) order. We argue that the SVO word order is used more frequently by children with ASD due to the noun bias principle.

Conclusions. Based on the analysis, SVO sentences were used more than VSO sentences for many reasons; namely, the basic word order of the linguistic input in the surrounding community, the noun bias principle, and the type of message being conveyed, i.e., entity-oriented messages. After administering a t-test, statistically significant differences were found between the results of the two word orders in favor of SVO word order.


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Author Biographies

Abdel Rahman Altakhaineh, The University of Jordan (Jordan )

Ph.D. in Linguistics, Assitant Professor (English Language and Literature).
Scopus Author ID: 57168901500

Razan N Alkhatib, Al Ain University (United Arab Emirates)

Ph.D. in Special Needs, Assistant Professor (Special Needs).
Scopus Author ID: 57213257593

Hiba Alhendi, The University of Jordan (Jordan)

MA holder in Linguistics.
Scopus Author ID: 57224921062


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How to Cite
Altakhaineh, A. R., Alkhatib, R. N., & Alhendi, H. (2022). The Acquisition of Basic Word Order by Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. PSYCHOLINGUISTICS, 31(1), 25-43.