Language refers to the means of communication through which individuals use sounds and conventional symbols to express themselves (Otto, 2010). Even newborn babies can be able to communicate their feelings. The development of languages begins as a person masters basic skills. As children continue to acquire more knowledge, they tend to develop complex and meaningful language. The development of language takes place in two phases, namely the pre-linguistic phase and the linguistic phase. In the pre-linguistic phase, children are unable to utter meaningful words, and this phase lasts for about thirteen months (Otto, 2010). Means of communication during the pre-linguistic phase include crying, babbling, cooling, representational gestures, and conventional gestures. The linguistic phase of language development comes after the pre-linguistic phase, and it involves holophrastic speech, phoneme recognition, telegraphic speech, expressive vocabulary, and syntax. This discussion will consider the pre-linguistic and linguistic phases of early language development.
The pre-linguistic phase of early language development includes crying, babbling, cooing, use of representational gestures, and use of conventional gestures which enables the newborn babies to express themselves when they experience various disturbances (Otto, 2010).
Crying is the earliest means of communication of human beings. The newborn babies cry immediately after birth because of the new environmental conditions. A baby cry is a significant way of communication that babies use to show that they are experiencing tummy troubles, hunger, wetness, need to sleep, just to mention a few. Crying is a spontaneous process because newborns have not understood the world yet. Babies communicate through crying during the first month after birth. This serves as a significant foundation for the development of speech, because the baby practices on how to use the vocal codes and control air as it leaves the lungs (Otto, 2010).
In addition to crying, babies can communicate through cooing when they are about two months old. The two-month old babies start to pay close attention to the surrounding environment. It is necessary for adults to talk to their babies as much as possible to encourage the cooing response. Apart from talking, adults should also look directly into their babies’ eyes during cooing to establish communications signals between the two. Babies will use cooing as their means of communication until they are about six months old when they start to babble (Otto, 2010).
Babbling refers to a state in which babies utter a variety of unrecognizable words after they attain the age of about seven months (Otto, 2010). This facilitates the development of the pharynx and allows the formation of sounds that constitute human speech. Babies produce a variety of sounds while babbling. As the caregivers reinforce and expose the babies a language, the babies start to utter sounds that have a close relationship with the language. Reinforcement techniques include talking to the babies and looking directly into their eyes. Babbling may be over after the first twelve months as the baby starts to use representational gestures, conventional gestures, or utter meaningful words (Otto, 2010).
Conventional gestures refer to the baby signs that they use when referring to an object in front of them. These gestures include waving, pushing objects in protest, or pointing at the objects as they desire to touch them. Children start using conventional gestures when they attain the age of about twelve months (Otto, 2010).
Use of Representational Gestures
Representational gestures are signs that babies make when they have acquired the ability to form concepts as well as represent the concepts using symbols. Children start using representational gestures at the age of about eighteen months, just before they start saying meaningful words (Otto, 2010).
The linguistic phase of early language development begins when a baby starts to utter meaningful words similar to the words that make up the native language. This phase begins when the baby attains the age of about one year. The linguistic phase involves holophrastic speech, phoneme recognition, the use of expressive vocabulary, Ttelegraphic speech, and syntax (Otto, 2010).
Holophrastic speech is common with children who have attained the age of about one year. This is the first meaningful of in young children which consists of single words that function as sentences or phrases. The single words can have a variety of meanings, which the baby can express by the use of intonation patterns, volume, and gestures. Linguists refer to the single words as holo-phrases meaning that the single words are just as meaningful as complete sentences or phrases (Otto, 2010). At the age of about eighteen months, the vocabulary of the child starts to grow phenomenally faster than it was in the past. Therefore, children begin to use a number of words to express their feelings after they attain the age of about eighteen months (Otto, 2010).
Telegraphic speech refers to a speech which consists of phrases or sentences that the speaker utters abnormally. Children utter meaningful sentences and phrases that lack some significant grammatical components. In most cases, a telegraphic speech consists of two words. For instance, a child might say, “Tea now”, when he needs a cup of tea. An adult may say, “I would like to have a cup of tea immediately”, which will imply the same thing as the two words that the child utters. The acquisition of telegraphic speech takes place some time later when the child is eighteen and thirty-six months old (Otto, 2010).
Syntax refers to the structure of a sentence (Otto, 2010). Children start to utter grammatically meaningful sentences after they attain the age of about eighteen months. A child learns to combine meaningful sentences with the use of processing constraints. The processing constraints include mutual exclusivity, taxonomic constraint, object scope constraint, and lexical, constraint. Children have not learnt about the structure of sentences, but they can be able to know that a sentence sounds correctly through speaking. Syntax improves as children grow older because of the experience that they develop due to interpersonal interactions.
Phonemes recognition refers to the ability of a child to identify phonemes which are the basic elements of a dialect or spoken language. Phonemes form the basis of constructing words in a language. Recognition of phonemes among children begins at the age of two years as the pre-school ages. Children should be able to recognize phonemes in order to gain the ability of reading. Children become familiar with phonemes in conversations, especially when people read alphabet books aloud. This will enable children to keep remembering different phonemes, which will facilitate reading (Otto, 2010).
Use of Expressive Vocabulary
Expressive vocabulary refers to those words that a child uses when speaking. This develops before the child acquires the skills necessary for the development of expressive language. Expressive vocabulary enables children to describe the objects they see around them. Children start using expressive vocabularies at the age of two years (Otto, 2010).
Therefore, language development is a continuous process in human beings which starts right from birth and continues till adulthood. Children can express their desires even before they can be able to utter meaningful words. As children grow up, they interact with people and develop many vocabularies in their brains which they use to express themselves (Otto, 2010).