Four Stages of Language Development

    Children go through four stages as they acquire language, regardless of the culture they are raised in, and no matter what language they end up speaking. The four stages of language development are babbling, single-word, two-word, and multi-word. These stages of language acquisition represent the mean length of utterance (MLU), or the average number of words in a child’s speech.Babbling Stage

    The beginning of language development is the babbling stage. During this time, an infant starts making vocalizations that are the rudiments of what will be spoken language. This begins with murmuring and similar sounds. By 6 months, the baby advances to repeating syllables, such as ba-ba, da-da, and ma-ma. Most babies will say da-da before they say ma-ma—not because they love Dad better, but simply because it is easier to articulate. Children are continuously practicing their speech. From They babbling in their cribs when no one is around to showing off in front of strangers. They may also go through a period of babbling nonsense that has an up-and-down pitch or tone.Another topic of interest is categorical perception of phonemes. Individuals establish boundaries in speech signals to distinguish different phonemes. However, the specific placement of these boundaries varies based on the language they speak. The establishment of these boundaries occurs early in language development. Initially, infants can recognize and identify all phonemes across languages. However, with continued exposure to their home language, by 8 months old, infants begin to focus on the phonemes specific to their language (while losing sensitivity to phonemes not present in their home language). This process is mostly complete by around 12 months, at which point children exhibit categorical perception patterns similar to those of the adults in their language community.
    Single-Word Stage

    A child enters the single-word stage at approximately 12 months of age. During this phase, children begin to acquire and express themselves using single words such as "milk," "doggie," "bye-bye," and the ever-popular "no." Despite using only one word at a time, children can convey complex ideas.

    For instance, the word "milk" could encompass various meanings, such as "Mommy, I'm feeling thirsty and would appreciate it if you could get me some milk to drink." It might also indicate gratitude, a request for assistance in reaching the milk bottle, or even surprise at having thrown the milk against the wall. At this stage, children typically have a working vocabulary of about 20 words, utilizing them to communicate with the world around them.Two-Word Stage

    Around 18 months of age, children enter the Two-word stage, where they start combining two words to express more complex ideas. Examples include "my milk," "good dog," or "no nap." Within a few months, children progress from using a single symbol to convey an idea to linking two symbols together to express a more intricate concept that incorporates both the individual meanings of the words and the relationship between them. This marks a significant milestone in cognitive development.

    Additionally, starting around this age, there is a remarkable growth in the child's spoken vocabulary, often referred to as a "word explosion." An average 18-month-old child may possess a working vocabulary of around 50 spoken words, which expands to thousands of words within just a few years, by the time they reach kindergarten age (Gleason, 1985).Multiword Stage

    The final stage of language acquisition is the multiword stage, during which children begin to combine three or more words to express increasingly complex ideas using their expanding vocabulary. Examples include phrases like "I want more juice" or "The cow goes moo." Alongside this, the syntactic structures used to construct sentences become more intricate. Children start incorporating pronouns ("I am happy now"), verb endings ("Billy fell down"), and other grammatical markers into their speech.

    During this stage, children's cognitive sophistication becomes more apparent, as demonstrated in the viral video below featuring Noah Ritter. Their language abilities now reflect their growing cognitive development. It is also during this period that many parents may feel overwhelmed by their young children's curiosity and eagerness to interpret and communicate about the world around them.

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