Semantic and pragmatic disorders

Semantic refers to the meanings of words and phrases.

Pragmatic refers to the use of language in a social context (knowing what to say and when and how to say it to other people).

Children with semantic difficulties struggle to understand the meaning of sentences or words.

  • Words which refer to abstract concepts such as feelings (sad, puzzled, jealous) or status (important, official) can be especially hard for these children to understand.
  • They misinterpret and take literally phrases such as “Cut it out!”, “Stop it” or “He’s a push-over”.
  • Often it can be difficult for children with a semantic disorder to work out the topic or key information in a sentence.

Children with pragmatic difficulties struggle to use language socially.

  • They do not understand how we take turns when we talk.
  • They interrupt more than is acceptable.
  • Their conversation often seems inappropriate or irrelevant.
  • They can seem to be unaware of what their conversational partner needs to know – and can therefore say too much or too little about a subject.

Some children have both semantic and pragmatic difficulties.

For more information about semantic-pragmatic disorders, please contact us.