Language in autism: domains, profiles and co-occurring conditions

Jeannette Schaeffer, Muna Abd El-Raziq, Elena Castroviejo, Stephanie Durrleman, Sandrine Ferré, Ileana Grama, Petra Hendriks, Mikhail Kissine, Marta Manenti, Theodoros Marinis, Natalia Meir, Rama Novogrodsky, Alexandra Perovic, Francesca Panzeri, Silvia Silleresi, Nufar Sukenik, Agustín Vicente, Racha Zebib, Philippe Prévost, Laurice Tuller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article reviews the current knowledge state on pragmatic and structural language abilities in autism and their potential relation to extralinguistic abilities and autistic traits. The focus is on questions regarding autism language profiles with varying degrees of (selective) impairment and with respect to potential comorbidity of autism and language impairment: Is language impairment in autism the co-occurrence of two distinct conditions (comorbidity), a consequence of autism itself (no comorbidity), or one possible combination from a series of neurodevelopmental properties (dimensional approach)? As for language profiles in autism, three main groups are identified, namely, (i) verbal autistic individuals without structural language impairment, (ii) verbal autistic individuals with structural language impairment, and (iii) minimally verbal autistic individuals. However, this tripartite distinction hides enormous linguistic heterogeneity. Regarding the nature of language impairment in autism, there is currently no model of how language difficulties may interact with autism characteristics and with various extralinguistic cognitive abilities. Building such a model requires carefully designed explorations that address specific aspects of language and extralinguistic cognition. This should lead to a fundamental increase in our understanding of language impairment in autism, thereby paving the way for a substantial contribution to the question of how to best characterize neurodevelopmental disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-457
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Neural Transmission
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).


  • Autism
  • Comorbidity
  • Dimensional approach
  • Language
  • Language impairment
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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