Metalinguistic abilities usually emerge after a child has mastered a linguistic form. Therefore, it is possible that a young school-age child becomes aware at a metalinguistic level of language forms and content unconsciously used in the preschool years. Some metalinguistic abilities are an almost unconscious or implicit aspect of feedback, whereas others are extremely explicit and conscious. An order of development based on this continuum is presented in the table.

Approximate Age Abilities
1½-2 yrs.
  • Monitor one's own ongoing utterances
    • Repair spontaneously
    • Practice sounds, words, and sentences
    • Adjust one's speech to different listeners
3-4 years
  • Check the result of one's utterance
    • Check whether the listener has understood; if not, repair or try again
    • Comment explicitly on own utterances and those of others
    • Correct others
  • Test for reality
    • Decide whether a word or sentence "works" in furthering listeners understanding
  • Attempt to learn language deliberately
    • Practice new sounds, words, and sentences
    • Practice speech styles of different roles
School age
  • Predict the consequences of using particular forms (inflections, words, phrases, sentences)
    • Apply appropriate inflections to "new" words
    • Judge utterances as appropriate for a specific listener or setting
    • Correct word order and wording in sentences judged as "wrong"
  • Reflect on the product of an utterance (structure independent of use)
    • Identify specific linguistic units (sounds, syllables, words, sentences)
    • Provide definitions of words
    • Construct puns, riddles, or other forms of humor
    • Explain why some sentences are possible and how to interpret them