Pragmatics and mind reading: The puzzle of autism

Diana Mazzarella & Ira Noveck

Abstract Mikhail Kissine’s (2021) target article examines autism in order to mine questions about language use and its cognitive underpinnings. Among these, we focus on the question concerning the role of mind reading in language interpretation. Kissine claims that the selective pragmatic profile of highly verbal autistic individuals undermines the existence of an ‘intrinsic link’ between language interpretation and mind reading. We advocate for a more cautious approach based on both theoretical and empirical arguments. Theoretically speaking, data from autism are compatible with the view that language interpretation is the result of a special-purpose form of mind reading, dedicated to the domain of intentional communication. Empirically speaking, the data are neither clear nor consistent enough for making strong claims about what exactly are the communicative challenges of highly verbal autistic individuals.
Keywords Autism spectrum disorder; Theory of Mind; inference; experimental pragmatics; modularity
Citation Mazzarella, D., & Noveck, I. (2021). Pragmatics and mind reading: The puzzle of autism. Language, 97(3), 198-210.
Type Journal article (English)
Date of appearance 30-9-2021
Journal Language
Volume 97
Issue 3
Pages 198-210
URL https://doi.org/10.1353/lan.2021.0037
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