Language against the odds, or rather not: the weak central coherence hypothesis and language

M. Vulchanova, V. Vulchanov, J.B. Talcott, M. Stankova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


EV is a child with a talent for learning language combined with Asperger syndrome. EV’s talent is evident in the unusual circumstances of her acquisition of both her first (Bulgarian) and second (German) languages and the unique patterns of both receptive and expressive language (in both the L1 and L2), in which she shows subtle dissociations in competence and performance consistent with an uneven cognitive profile of skills and abilities. We argue that this case provides support for theories of language learning and usage that require more general underlying cognitive mechanisms and skills. One such account, the Weak Central Coherence (WCC) hypothesis of autism, provides a plausible framework for the interpretation of the simultaneous co-occurrence of EV’s particular pattern of cognitive strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore, we show that specific features of the uneven cognitive profile of Asperger syndrome can help explain the observed language talent displayed by EV. Thus, rather than demonstrating a case where language learning takes place despite the presence of deficits, EV’s case illustrates how a pattern of strengths within this profile can specifically promote language learning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-30
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Neurolinguistics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012


  • weak central coherence
  • language talent
  • language development
  • exceptional skills
  • asperger syndrome
  • cognitive profile


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