Early Childhood Communication: Early Words

Although it may seem to parents that they wait forever for their child to utter their first word, the ease and speed with which children learn language is truly remarkable. Language is an incredibly complex symbolic communication system, and yet, children learn it with almost no formal instruction; for the most part, they simply hear and learn.

Each child develops language in his or her own way; however, there are certain patterns of language acquisition and usage that are seen across children. From approximately 12 to 18 months, children are in the holophrastic stage. This means that children only use one word at a time, and these single words comprise a sentence in and of themselves.

One characteristic of the one-word stage is overextension. Overextension is a characteristic of speech in which children use a single word for a much broader category than it is intended. For example, a child may call every liquid “juice”, every animal a “doggy”, and every man “daddy”.

On the other end of the spectrum is underextension. Underextension is when a child uses a word in a narrower context than is actually intended. For example, a child may use “doggy” to mean only her dog, Spot. “Bottle” may only be understood as corresponding to the child’s personal bottle and nothing else.

At approximately 18 months, the child may begin to combine two words together, opening up a whole new level of communication. Next week, we’ll discuss this two-word phrase and the way in which it affects a child’s developing language skills.

Are you concerned about your child’s speech or language development? At Speech Associates of New York, our team of professionally trained and certified speech-language pathologists provide in-home evaluations and therapy. Each of our professionals is trained in the assessment and treatment of a range of pediatric and adult speech, language and communication disorders. Call us today at (917) 841-2965 and find out how we can help your child communicate their best!

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