Stages of Oral Language Development
From birth on, children begin to learn about their environments and to communicate with family members. What they are learning is reflected in the ways in which they vocalize.
As early as six weeks, infants will begin to spontaneously make cooing sounds (Reich, 1986; Wolff, 1969). These extended sounds resemble vowel sounds, such as /aaa/, /ooo/, /ahhh/. (Note that the slash marks surrounding the letters refer to the sound associated with the letters.) At this stage children are learning to make sounds by manipulating their tongues, mouths, and breathing. This cooing behavior may occur when the child is alone and clearly indicates the child is experimenting with making sounds.
These vowel-like sounds occur earlier than do the consonant-like sounds because the vowel-like sounds are produced with less articulation than are the consonant sounds. For example, when you produce an /aaa/ sound your mouth and throat are more open; when you produce a /p/ sound, you need to coordinate your lips and breath to produce the sound.
Infants’ sound production becomes more varied and complex around 4–6 months of age. At this time they begin to babble, making repeated consonant–vowel sounds, such as ba-ba-ba (Clark & Clark, 1977; Stoel-Gammon, 1998). A more complex type of babbling develops around 8–10 months. This type of babbling varies in intonation and rhythm and sounds like the child is talking. It is called echolalic babbling because it reflects the intonation and rhythm of the speech of the adults in the child’s environment (Sachs, 1989).
Around one year of age, children begin to produce word-like units. These word-like units may be invented words, also known as idiomorphs (Reich, 1986). For example, a child may have a special invented word that refers to a toy or to his personal blanket. This idiomorph is a “word” in the sense that it is stable and used to refer to a particular object on a consistent basis. In addition to these invented words, children also produce more conventional words that resemble adult pronunciation and meaning.
The one-word stage is a significant development because the child is now using a stable language unit to communicate meaning. Often parents and family members will adopt the child’s invented words or pronunciations as a way of encouraging the child to talk.
© ______ 2008, Allyn & Bacon, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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