Language Development

Language development refers to the process through which children acquire, or learn language. This usually happens in a fairly consistent order, or sequence, without requiring explicit teaching or effort from others. Typically children will learn by being surrounded by others speaking and communicating with them socially.

This process is impacted on by a number of factors however, including both internal and external forces. In other words, a child's genetic make up may impact on the way they develop language skills, as may the environment they grow up in and the people they interact with.

The difference between language and speech is often misunderstood; however, there is an important distinction to be made. When we talk about language we are referring to "the set of symbols, usually words or signs that are organised by convention to communicate ideas". This means that when a child uses the word "star", for example, the child or adult listening to them knows that they are referring to a sparkling entity seen up in the sky at night time. They know this because the word "star" is part of a shared language.

Language can be thought of in two main categories: receptive and expressive.

Receptive refers to a child's ability to understand the communication of other people, including spoken words, gestures and written words.

Expressive refers to a child's ability to express him/herself, through modes including speech, gesture etc.

Language is comprised of a number of elements, including:

  • Prosody - variations in pitch, intonation etc.
  • Morphology - the formation of words (e.g. adding an -ed ending to 'walk' to explain that someone 'walked', creating the past tense form)
  • Syntax - putting words together to make sentences
  • Semantics - word meanings
  • Vocabulary - the number of words a child understands, knows and uses
  • Pragmatics - the social use of language (understanding how to use it to interact with other people)

If you would like to read more about typical language development, click here.

If you would like to find out about language difficulties and disorders, click here.

And of course if you would like to chat to our experienced therapists about your child's development, please contact us.

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