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Pragmatic language impairment (PLI), or social (pragmatic) communication disorder (SCD), is an impairment in understanding pragmatic aspects of language.

This type of impairment was previously called semantic-pragmatic disorder (SPD). People with these impairments have special challenges with the semantic aspect of language (the meaning of what is being said) and the pragmatics of language (using language appropriately in social situations).

It is assumed that those with autism have difficulty with "the meaning of what is being said" due to different ways of responding to social situations.

PLI is now a diagnosis in DSM-5, and is called social (pragmatic) communication disorder. Communication problems are also part of the autism spectrum disorders (ASD); however, the latter also show a restricted pattern of behavior, according to behavioral psychology. The diagnosis SCD can only be given if ASD has been ruled out.

In 1983, Rapin and Allen suggested the term "semantic pragmatic disorder" to describe the communicative behavior of children who presented traits such as pathological talkativeness, deficient access to vocabulary and discourse comprehension, atypical choice of terms and inappropriate conversational skills. They referred to a group of children who presented with mild autistic features and specific semantic pragmatic language problems.

More recently, the term "pragmatic language impairment" (PLI) has been proposed.

Rapin and Allen's definition has been expanded and refined by therapists who include communication disorders that involve difficulty in understanding the meaning of words, grammar, syntax, prosody, eye gaze, body language, gestures, or social context.

While autistic children exhibit pragmatic language impairment, this type of communication disorder can also be found in individuals with other types of disorders including auditory processing disorders, neuropathies, encephalopathies and certain genetic disorders.