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Approximate Age

Receptive Language (Comprehension)

Expressive Language

2 to 4 months

  • Turns head toward sounds and can begin to discriminate one sound from another.

  • Verbal play through cooing, gooing and laughing. Vowel sounds produced (i.e., “ooohh, eee, and ahhh”).

4 to 8 months

  • Anticipates an event (e.g. peek-a-boo) and follows a line of regard (e.g. visually follows toy moving across floor) as well as joint attention (i.e. is capable of visually attending to object with caregiver).

  • Babbling begins. Some consonant are produced (i.e., ba, ma, pa).

  • Continues vocal play and exploration. Reduplicated (e.g., baba, mama) babbling begins between 7-9 months.

8 to 12 months

  • Relates words with physical objects (e.g. understands that the word “ball” actually means the object ball). Responds to simple phrases such as “no”.

  • Variegated babbling (e.g., madaga), Protowords or first word approximations appear. (Protowords = vocalizations that are used CONSISTENTLY by the infant to represent a familiar object or person. e.g. dada for daddy).

  • Non-verbal communication. Jargon (i.e. unintelligible speech such as, baka la tama eee) is present.

1 to 2 years

  • Increased attention to toys.

  • Changes behavior in response to comments made to him/her.

  • Knows a few simple commands with gestures needed at times.

  • Understands simple questions.

  • Points to simple pictures.

  • 50 words at 18 months (consist of many proto words)

  • 50-200 words at 24 months. Uses mostly nouns and pronoun me/mine.

  • Jargon (i.e. unintelligible speech) still present.

2 to 3 years

  • Comprehension shows a rapid increase.

  • Responds to more 2 step command with prepositions (e.g. Spatial conditions. Pick up the ball and put it on the table).

  • Understands questions about an object (what?), people (who?), and basic events (What _ doing? Where _ going?)

  • 150 words at age 2

  • 300-400 words and 75% intelligible speech at age 3 years.

  • Awareness of rhyming emerges (24-30 months)

  • Uses two-three word phrases frequently. Asks simple questions.

  • Fluency can be poor. Jargon (unintelligible speech) mostly gone.

  • Vowel sounds intact. Early emerging of ing, in, on, plural /s/.

  • Use and understand negation between subject and verb (no, not, can't, don't). 

3 to 4 years

  • Understands 1500 words.

  • Recognizes gender differences (he/she), plurals, pronouns, adjectives (eg. big), adverbs (eg. fast), and basic colors.

  • Has awareness of the topic during conversation and is able to continue the conversation by adding additional information. 

  • Uses 600-1000 words and 3-4 word sentences.

  • Pronouns and adjectives are used as well as some adverbs, prepositions, past tense and plurals. 

  • Articles appear (a, the) in sentences. 

  • Answers what, where and when questions.

4 to 5 years

  • Comprehends 1500-2000 words.

  • Understands if, because, why and when.

  • Follows complex directions. 

  • Knowledge of letter names and sounds emerges.

  • Knowledge of numbers and counting. 

  • Vocabulary increases to 1000-1600 words and 4-6 word (complex) sentences.

  • 3-4 syllable words are being used.

  • 100 % speech intelligibility. 

  • Errors on /s/, /r/, /l/, /th/ may persist.  

  • Uses more adjectives, adverbs and conjunctions (and, because).

  • Fluency improving. 

5 to 6 years

  • Understands 2500-2800 words.

  • Understands more complicated sentences. 

  • A vocabulary of 1500-2100 words.

  • Uses complete 5-6 word sentences.

  • Fluent speech.

  • Many multi-syllabic words are used.


Gleason, J. B. (2005). The development of language. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.

Paul, R. (2001). Language disorders from infancy through adolescence: Assessment and intervention. St Louis: Mosby Inc.

Golinkoff, R. M., & Hirsh-Pasek, K. (1999). How babies talk: The magic and mystery of language in the first three years of life. New York: Penguin Group.

Developmental Milestones (0-6)

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