Rethinking echolalia: repetition as interactional resource in the communication of a child with autism

J Child Lang. 2014 Mar;41(2):275-304. doi: 10.1017/S0305000912000682. Epub 2013 Mar 7.


Echolalia is a pervasive phenomenon in verbal children with autism, traditionally conceived of as an automatic behavior with no communicative function. However, recently it has been shown that echoes may serve interactional goals. This article, which presents a case study of a six-year-old child with autism, examines how social interaction organizes autism echolalia and how repetitive speech responds to discernible interactional trajectories. Using linguistic, discourse, and acoustic analyses, we demonstrate that the child is able to mobilize echolalia to mark different stances, through the segmental and suprasegmental modulation of echoes. We offer an interpretive framework that deepens our understanding of the complex interactions that children with autism can engage in by using echoes, and discuss the implications of this perspective for current views of atypical language development in autism.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder*
  • Child
  • Communication*
  • Echolalia*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Speech Acoustics