Stages of Language Development: Pre-Linguistic and Symbolic Language

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  • 0:07 Introduction to Syntax
  • 1:20 Pre-linguistic…
  • 2:25 Linguistic Language…
  • 5:36 Expressive vs.…
  • 6:21 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lisa Roundy

Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.

How does language expression emerge in children? Learn about the development of syntax in children through the pre-linguistic and linguistic stages of language development in this lesson.

Syntax: Definition and Developmental Stages

What image do you have in your mind when I say the following words: Venetian blind? You picture a common window covering, right? Now, what happens to that image when I switch up the order of the words: blind Venetian? It creates a completely different idea, doesn't it? As this example shows, the order in which we use words can be very important! The term that refers to the order or sequencing of words in a language is syntax.

Studies show that syntax is learned as young children are exposed to speech with proper, complex sentence structure. So, how does this process take place? Before babies say their first word, they have made a lot of progress towards understanding language and speech. A young child listens and attempts to imitate the sounds it hears. In turn, we respond to and reinforce these attempts at speech. A young child does not develop this ability all at one time. Instead, the process consists of a series of developmental stages. These stages are typically divided into two categories: pre-linguistic and linguistic.

Pre-Linguistic Language Development

Pre-linguistic language development is when a child is learning to control the sounds he can produce and to string these sounds together in vocal play. In this stage, the child is not yet able to manipulate these sounds into proper words.

There are four categories of pre-linguistic development that can be distinguished. Vegetative sounds occur at 0-2 months of age and include the natural sounds that babies make, such as burping or crying. Cooing and laughter occur at 2-5 months of age. These are vocalizations that the baby makes when it's happy or content and can be made up of vowel or consonant sounds. Vocal play begins around the ages of 4-8 months. During vocal play, the baby begins to string together longer vowel or consonant sounds. Finally, babbling occurs around the ages of 6-13 months. At this time, the child begins to produce a series of consonant-vowel syllables and may develop utterances, such as ma-ma and da-da.

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