Speech-Language Pathology
Normal Development

Normal Speech / Language Development

The ability to communicate is important for daily living, including the development of social relationships. Children learn to communicate in stages, with articulation and language developing independently. To understand verbal communication development, it is important to understand the difference between speech (articulation) and language.

  • Speech (articulation) − the physical production of sounds to form spoken words.
  • Language − the message conveyed back and forth in talking. This includes the ability to understand the speech of others (receptive language) and the ability to express thoughts through words and sentences (expressive language).

Children vary in their rate of development. However, speech and language development generally occurs as follows:

  • Watches the speaker’s face
  • Cries are differentiated by needs
  • Coos with vowel sounds
  • Localizes to sound
  • Coos with intonation
  • Vocalizes to others
  • Responds to name
  • Recognizes names of family members
  • Responds to simple commands accompanied by a gesture
  • Uses gesture for communication (pointing, reaching, waving)
  • Imitates actions (as in peekaboo)
  • Babbles using early developmental consonants (b, m, w, d, n, g)
  • Begins to point to some body parts following a command
  • Follows simple, one-part commands (i.e. “Get your shoe.”)
  • Gives objects to others upon verbal request
  • Jargons with different sound combinations
  • Begins to use first words
  • Identifies many objects and pictures following a verbal command
  • Follows commands easily
  • Listens more to the meaning of conversations
  • Uses several single words
  • Communicates with a combination of words and gestures
  • Understands concepts (adjectives, pronouns, plurals)
  • Follows compound and complex commands
  • Uses two-to-three word combinations
  • Tries to tell about experiences
  • Begins to use more speech sounds such as fricatives (f, s, sh)
  • Shows interest in explanations for “why” and “how” questions
  • Uses phrases and short sentences for communication
  • Begins to use more complex morphological and syntactical forms
  • Uses long and structurally complex sentences
  • Tells stories and relates experiences from the past
  • Has errors in syntax (grammar), such as regularization of irregular forms (i.e., "feets")
  • Has speech that is understandable to all listeners, although minor errors are noted


Speech Pathology at Cincinnati Children's.
We have prepared a glossary of common terms you may read or hear during your child's visit. Glossary