Stages of Language Development Milestones


       Language Development

Language development is a process than begins early in human life, when a person starts to the process of language acquisition by imitating and repeating sounds other people make. Stages of  language development evolves from simple to complex. Infants start out without any formal language. They communicate through cries and body movement. By around four months of age, most  babies can read lips and discriminate distinctive speech sounds. The language of the infants is often referred to as babbling.

While young infants use their bodies, cries and other pre-verbal vocalizations in order to communicate , the language becomes more complex and structured as children grow and develop. Different children begin to express themselves verbally at various ages and each one develops at his own pace. Most children, however, learn their first language without specific conscious instruction from parents or caregivers. Research has shown that the childs’s earliest learning begins still in utero, when the fetus begins to recognize the sound and speech pattern of his mother’s voice.

Initially verbal expression begins as recall and imitation of simple words and sounds without the associated meaning, but as children mature cognitively, the connections between words and their meaning is formed. As a child grows older,  new associations and meanings begin to be acquired and the  vocabulary expands. Language development is a life long process.

Basic Stages of Language Development Milestones

There have been extensive debates among various schools of social scientist as to the answer to the question what is language development and how to define its stages. The main difficulty is that child language development is a highly individualized process and its pace varies considerably from child to child. Below are approximate time frames for general developmental  language development milestones.

First Month of Life -  your newborn will let you know when he or she is experiencing pleasure or pain by crying and making sounds.

Between 1-3  Months -  the appearance of first real smiles. The baby starts to coo and goo and babble with simple sounds.   The parents begin to differentiate between different cries – the baby cries differently when hungry, upset, or tired or wants to be held.

Between 4-6 Months – When content and playful, the infant uses gurgling sounds to show his or her pleasure. Babbling is more common, and the baby begins to repeat simple sound combinations, such as da-da or ba-ba. This babbling sounds close to speech and it often appears as if the baby is “talking” in her own “language”. At this stage of language development, the baby can often successfully communicate his or her wants and demands through sounds or gestures. To prompt parents into immediate action, babies use piercing urgent cries.

Between 7-12 Months – The sound of your the baby’s babbling begins to change and includes more consonants, as well as vowels. During this period most babies begin to say their first simple words, such as “MaMa”, “Dada” “Doggie”, “Bye Bye”, etc.

The Second Year – During this stage, the child begins using simple combinations of 2-3 word to formulate sentences. At this point, most toddlers can understand and carry out simple commands “Bring the ball”, and ask two-three word questions: “Where ball?” “What’s that?” Words pronunciation is becoming clearer as more initial consonants are used.

The Third Year – Your toddler’s vocabulary is expanding rapidly. He or she seems to learn a new word every day. The child begins to use complete 2-4 word sentences to communicate with family members. At this stage of language development, most children understand and use adjectives “big doggie!”.

The Fourth Year – At this stage, the child has mastered speaking in full sentences of a four-five word combination. The vocabulary has expanded to include some abstract as well as concrete concepts. The speech is clear enough for non family members to understand easily. Some children at this stage show clear signs of difficulties or stuttering. If you notice that your child has difficulties speaking properly or begins to stutter, consider consulting with a  a speech-language pathologist.

The Fifth Year -  Most children speak fluently and clearly, using complete sentences. Each sentence can include a combination of concepts or events. The sentences are mostly structured correctly, using proper grammar. At this stage of language development, children can tell complete stories and recount a sequence of events in chronological order. Most sounds and words are pronounced correctly, although children may be lisping or have difficulty with the letters  ”r”,  “th” and “v” . Some children who appear to have persistent problems with proper pronunciation of certain words may require speech therapy sessions.

To get additional information on typical stages of language development milestones in children, click here:

For more detailed information on what constitutes a delay in language development, click here:

Although each child develops at his own unique pace, in case of a noticable delay in language development in early childhood, the child should be referred to an expert’s evaluation.

Stay tuned for more on this topic in the future on our blog. We are going to post a language development chart, language development in toddlers, language development theories , speech language development, early language development, language delay and expressive language development.

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       Language Development
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