Preprint Review Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

In Prototypical Autism, the Genetic Ability to Learn Language is Triggered by Structured Information, not Only by Exposure to Oral Language

Version 1 : Received: 24 June 2021 / Approved: 28 June 2021 / Online: 28 June 2021 (10:33:38 CEST)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.

Mottron, L.; Ostrolenk, A.; Gagnon, D. In Prototypical Autism, the Genetic Ability to Learn Language Is Triggered by Structured Information, Not Only by Exposure to Oral Language. Genes 2021, 12, 1112. https://doi.org/10.3390/genes12081112 Mottron, L.; Ostrolenk, A.; Gagnon, D. In Prototypical Autism, the Genetic Ability to Learn Language Is Triggered by Structured Information, Not Only by Exposure to Oral Language. Genes 2021, 12, 1112. https://doi.org/10.3390/genes12081112

Journal reference: Genes 2021, 12
DOI: 10.3390/genes12081112

Abstract

What does the way autistics bypass, learn, and eventually master language tell us about humans’ genetically encoded linguistic ability? In this theoretical review, we argue that autistic non-social acquisition of language, as well as autistic savant abilities, provide a strong argument for an innate, human-specific orientation toward (and mastery of) complex embedded structures. Autistic non-social language learning may represent a widening of the material processed during development beyond oral language. Structure detection and manipulation and generative production of non-linguistic embedded and chained material (savant abilities in calendar calculation, musical composition and interpretation, three-dimensional drawing) may thus represent an application of such innate mechanisms to non-standard materials. Typical language learning through exposure to the child’s mother tongue may represent but one of many possible achievements of the same capacity. The deviation from typical language development in autism may ultimately allow access to oral language, sometimes in its most elaborate forms, but also explains the possibility of the absence of its development when applied exclusively to non-linguistic structured material. Such an extension of human capacities beyond, or in parallel to, their usual limits call into question what we consider to be specific or expected in humans and, therefore, does not necessarily represent a genetic “error”. Regardless of the adaptive success or failure of non-social language learning, it is up to science and ethical principles to strive to maintain autism as a human potentiality to further foster our vision of a plural society.

Subject Areas

language; autism; development; perception; veridical mapping; autistic interests; deep phenotypes; clusters/subtypes; neurodevelopment

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