The Biolinguistics of Autism: Emergent Perspectives


  • Nicolas J. Bourguignon University of Montreal
  • Aparna Nadig McGill University
  • Daniel Valois University of Montreal


autism spectrum disorders, language processing, music, vision, executive functions


This contribution attempts to import the study of autism into the biolinguistics program by reviewing the current state of knowledge on its neurobiology, physiology and verbal phenotypes from a comparative vantage point. A closer look at alternative approaches to the primacy of social cognition impairments in autism spectrum disorders suggests fundamental differences in every aspect of language comprehension and production, suggesting productive directions of research in auditory and visual speech processing as well as executive control. Strong emphasis is put on the great heterogeneity of autism phenotypes, raising important caveats towards an all-or-nothing classification of autism. The study of autism brings interesting clues about the nature and evolution of language, in particular its ontological connections with musical and visual perception as well as executive functions and generativity. Success in this endeavor hinges upon expanding beyond the received wisdom of autism as a purely social disorder and favoring a “cognitive style” approach increasingly called for both inside and outside the autistic community.

Author Biographies

Nicolas J. Bourguignon, University of Montreal

Ph.D. candidate, Departement of Linguistics

Aparna Nadig, McGill University

Assistant Professor, School of Communication Sciences and Disorders

Daniel Valois, University of Montreal

Full Professor, Department of Linguistics