As linguistic development designates the stage when children are able to manipulate verbal symbols, it should be apparent that pre-linguistic development refers to the stage before the child is able to manipulate such symbols. Consequently, this stage is sometimes called the pre-symbolic stage. Pre-linguistic development, therefore, concerns itself with precursors to the development of symbolic skills and typically covers the period from birth to around 13 months of age. Four stages can be identified: * Vegetative sounds (0-2 months): the natural sounds that babies make, e.g. crying, coughing, burping, and swallowing. * Cooing and laughter (2-5 months): these vocalizations usually occur when the baby is comfortable and content. They are typically made up of vowels and consonants. * Vocal play (4-8 months): the infant engages in longer and more continuous streams of either vowel or consonant sounds. * Babbling (6-13 months): at least two sub-stages are identified – reduplicated babbling, in which the child produces a series of Consonant-Vowel (CV) syllables with the same consonant being repeated (e.g. wa-wa-wa, mu-mu-mu) and non-reduplicated babbling, consisting of either CVC vocalizations (e.g. mom, pip) or VCV vocalizations (e.g. ama, ooboo). [See Speech Development] Up to this stage of development much of what the child produces is really no more than a sort of verbal play. The child is practicing individual sounds, and sound sequences, and gaining the motor skills necessary to produce what will eventually be considered as actual adult words. So, young children make various sounds and others then assign meaning to these. So, for example, a child may reach for an object whilst at the same time saying ‘m’. An adult may interpret this as the child wanting help to get the object. The child, having realized that this combination of physical gesture (reaching) and articulating ‘m’ prompts an adult to pass the desired object, may go on to repeat this behavior. The child is learning that certain actions that he or she performs can be used to control his or her environment. These changes come about because the child’s ability to focus their attention on their caregiver and on objects becomes more refined as they mature. For example, from 0-2 months there is shared attentiveness in which only the baby and caregiver form part of any interactive event – all other elements are ignored. From 2-6 months there is interpersonal engagement when the baby is conceptually able to differentiate their own self from the caregiver and focus attention on each other and on the ‘message’ of the communicative event. Then, from about 6-15 months there is a shift such that the child is now able to focus attention on objects (e.g. cups, toys, books) and understand that the communicative event is focused on these. This is sometimes called joint object involvement. It is, however, the emergence of words from about 12 months onwards that signals the onset of linguistic development. This is the stage when there is symbolic communication emerges. Linguistic Development
Linguistic development occurs at what is called the One Word Stage. It is at this stage that we can properly talk about a child’sexpressive language, i.e. the words used to express emotions, feelings, wants, needs, ideas, and so on. This should not be confused with the child’s understanding or receptive language. The two are, of course, closely related. However, a child will typically understand much more than he or she can actually express and a child’s expressive language, therefore, lags behind its comprehension by a few months. Early One Word Stage (12-19 months)
Before the emergence of the first ‘adult’ words the child will use specific sound combinations in particular situations. The sound combinations are not conventional adult words but they appear to be being used consistently to express meaning. For example, if the child says mu every time he...
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