Background: Social communication problems in individuals who have Asperger syndrome constitute one of the most significant problems in the syndrome. This study makes a systematic analysis of the difficulties demonstrated with the use of language (pragmatics) in adolescents who have Asperger syndrome. Method: Recent advances in discourse analysis were applied to conversational samples from a group of children with Asperger syndrome and a matched control group of children with severe conduct disorder. Two types of conversation were sampled from each group, differing in emotional content. Results: The results showed that in these contexts children with Asperger syndrome were no more verbose as a group than controls, though they showed a tendency to talk more in more emotion-based conversations. Children with Asperger syndrome, as a group, performed similarly to control subjects in ability to respond to questions and comments. However, they were more likely to show responses which were problematic in both types of conversation. In addition, individuals with Asperger syndrome showed more problems in general conversation than during more emotionally and socially loaded topics. The group with Asperger syndrome was found to contain a small number of individuals with extreme verbosity but this was not a reliable characteristic of the group as a whole.