Normal Speech and Language Development: An Overview. James Coplan. Pediatrics in Review Mar 1995, 16 (3) 91-100; DOI: 10.1542/pir.16-3-91.
Normal Speech and Language Development
Language consists of any symbol system for the storage and exchange of information. It commonly is described in terms of auditory expressive and receptive ability (speech and listening comprehension, respectively). However, language also is conveyed visually. Normal infants attend to gestures and initiate various gestures to make their needs known; visual language development in deaf infants exposed to a formal sign system, such as American Sign Language (ASL), parallels the stages of oral language development in hearing infants;1 and reading and writing are obvious manifestations of visual language in older children and adults. Precursors to auditory and visual language are readily observable from earliest infancy. Because these precursors lack symbolic value, they are termed prelinguistic.
Auditory Expressive Language
Human infants produce a uniform sequence of prelinguistic utterances, regardless of the language spoken by their adult caretakers. The earliest of these utterances is cooing, which consists of musical, open vowel sounds. Cooing should be well established within the first 4 to 6 weeks of life. This is followed in the first few months of life by bilabial sounds: blowing bubbles or the “raspberry.” By 5 months, laughing and a variety of monosyllables appear, such as “ba” or “ga.” Between 6 and 8 months, infants produce polysyllabic babbling, which consists of the same syllable repeated over and over: “lalalalala,” “mamamamama,” “dadadadada,” and so forth.
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