Morphosyntactic skills in Arabic-speaking children with autism spectrum disorder: Evidence from error patterns in the sentence repetition task

Muna Abd El-Raziq, Natalia Meir, Elinor Saiegh-Haddad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and aims: Although autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has not traditionally been associated with morphosyntactic impairments, some children with ASD manifest significant difficulties in this domain. Sentence Repetition (SRep) tasks are highly reliable tools for detecting morphosyntactic impairment in different languages and across various populations, including children with ASD. This study is among the first to evaluate morphosyntactic abilities of Palestinian-Arabic (PA) speaking children using a PA SRep task. Methods: A total of 142 PA-speaking children, aged 5-11, participated in the study: 75 children with typical language development (TLD) and 67 children with ASD. The PA SRep task targeted morphosyntactic structures of varying complexity (simple subject-verb-object [SVO] sentences, biclausal sentences, wh-questions, relative clauses). Children’s accuracy scores were assessed across these structures and error patterns encompassing morphosyntactic and pragmatic aspects were analyzed. Results: Two subgroups of ASD emerged: 43% showed age-appropriate language skills (ASD + NL) pairing up with TLD peers, while 57% showed signs of morphosyntactic impairment (ASD + LI). Children in both groups exhibited a higher frequency of morphosyntactic errors than pragmatic ones. Children with ASD + LI showed difficulties with producing complex morphosyntactic structures, such as relative clauses and object wh-questions. Error analysis revealed that children in the ASD + LI group produced sentence fragments and simplified constructions when complex structures were targeted. Conclusions: The current study extends the cross-linguistic evidence of the heterogeneity of morphosyntactic profiles in children with ASD to Arabic-speaking children. Error analysis indicates that poor morphosyntax, rather than pragmatics, challenges children's performance on the SRep task. Implications: Our results emphasize the importance of comprehensive language assessment in children with ASD and underscore the need for tailored intervention plans targeting impaired morphosyntactic structures in some children with ASD.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAutism and Developmental Language Impairments
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2024


  • Arabic language
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • morphosyntax
  • sentence repetition
  • subgroups of ASD

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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