child language acquisition

5 Stages of Child Language Acquisition (Clinically Reviewed)

Posted on
March 2, 2023
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Your child can acquire language through interaction with others. Not only with you, as a parent, and other adults, but also with other children. When language is used around your child, language may be acquired. Let’s unpack child language acquisition and the 5 stages of development.

What is language acquisition

Child language acquisition can be explained as the development of language. Generally, by age 6, most of the basic grammar and vocabulary have been mastered within a child’s first language. Language development falls as part of child development. It aids your child’s ability to communicate their needs and wants. Understanding how to express themselves and understand their own feelings.

What are the stages in child language acquisition?

Child language acquisition occurs in different stages but the entry point/beginning of stage 1 is the first sound a baby makes when they make their grand entrance into the world. That cry turns into a smile which turns into cooing and laughs. Cooing turns into babbling and eventually, babbling evolves into the very first word.

Often, the child’s first word is “mama,” which is an extension of their babbling. The first 3 years are critical for language development, as each stage builds upon the previous stage consecutively. The following section will delve specifically into each stage.

child language acquisition
5 stages of language acquisition by month

What are the 5 stages of language acquisition?

In early childhood language acquisition, language is broken down into 5 different stages.

Stage 1:  Birth-6 months

Infants communicate primarily through vocalizations, including cooing, laughing, and crying.

Stage 2: 6-9 months

Vocalizations become more developed, and infants start to babble! Both consonants (such as m, p, and b) and vowel sounds are produced, and syllable structures with no clear function or meaning emerge. The vocal volume starts to modulate, as a child’s voice becomes louder.

Stage 3: 9-18 months

This is the One Word stage. At this point, toddlers are able to say their first words and use them in different ways! Mama and dada are the common first words, as these sounds are easier to make than others, and those are the people in their environment that they typically are around the most often.

Stage 4: 18-24 months

This is the Two Word stage. Now, your toddler is able to combine two words. These are simple two-word phrases, and typically express a person and an action. This can be “mama eat” or “doggie run.” This stage is a very important one, as this is a time when rapid vocabulary development is occurring. Don’t be surprised if you hear your child say 1-2 new words a day!

Stage 5: 24-30 months

This stage is called the telegraphic stage, as your child can now put several words together, but the message is missing grammar that a child will develop later: the message that the child wants to communicate is there, but it may sound choppy as words are not strung together and are often out of order. The child may say utterances such as “mama home car” or  “dadda go park.”

What is Chomsky's theory on children's language acquisition?

Noam Chomsky - an American linguist- developed a strong theory regarding language acquisition is different from other child language acquisition theories in that it stresses that everyone has an innate LAD (Language Acquisition Device) that they are born with - without exposure to any language, a child can still develop their own language system!

This theory emphasizes that language acquisition is often based on what a child hears and is exposed to, as this allows them to pick up the nuances and structure of their language. In fact, Chomsky’s theory acknowledges systems of communication that people develop if they were not exposed to any language, such as sign language and dialects derived from other languages to be a form of language acquisition - they pass through the same stages of development. Ultimately, those who have no specific learned form of communication seek it out and develop their own system according to this theory.

How important is child language acquisition?

Child language acquisition is critical for a child’s language development. If a child falls off the trajectory of language acquisition, they may be language delayed or have developmental language disorder (DLD).

If a child continues to have difficulty communicating and understanding others, they will likely be extremely frustrated and show this frustration to you in various ways. This language acquisition will also determine the success of the child in developing later skills, such as cognition, reading, such as reading and writing.

Speak to our qualified speech and language pros for guidance on your child’s language acquisition development. Book a call when creating a free profile here.

Child language acquisition resources:


The acquisition of language by children

Speech and Language Developmental Milestones

How Does Your Child Hear and Talk? Speech, Language, and Hearing Developmental Milestones From Birth to 5 Years

The acquisition of language by children

Sharon Baum
Clinical Director, United States and M.A. CCC-SLP
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