Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders


Emily R. Zane


Background & Aims: Discourse markers, such as well or like serve a variety of functions to support conversational reciprocity: filling pauses, aiding word-finding, holding conversational turns, and providing information about pause length. Previous research shows that individuals with ASD use discourse markers less frequently than neurotypical (NT) peers; however, the discourse marker like has been left out of that research, despite its ubiquitous use by NT individuals, and despite the fact that like serves important pragmatic functions that are not encoded by any other discourse marker. Specifically, like signals to the listener that the content of upcoming speech is 1) Important/new; 2) Loose/approximate; 3) Reformulative; or 4) Quotative. The current study addresses this gap in the literature by comparing the frequency of discourse marker like use between older children with and without ASD, as well as exploring patterns of usage between the four like functions between and within groups.

Methods: Twenty-one older children with ASD and 20 NT peers -- statistically matched on age, sex, IQ and language scores – engaged in a semi-structured interview with a researcher. Uses of discourse-marker like were identified from written transcripts of interviews and each use was then categorized as one of the four functions.

Results: There were no significant differences in like frequencies between groups, nor were there differences in relative proportions of functions used by each group.

Conclusions: Research consistently indicates that individuals with ASD use some discourse markers significantly less often than their NT counterparts, but the findings from our study suggest that this pattern does not persist to all such markers. This group of older children with ASD use like as often as their peers, and they use it to signify similar information about upcoming speech to their listener.

Available for download on Friday, April 12, 2024