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There are three well-accepted milestones in the development of speech and language.

  • When the child says his or her first words (normally around one). This may be the first name of a parent, Mummy or Daddy, a familiar item of food or clothing, something interesting ike a bus, a tractor, or an animal, or a greeting, and more. It may be a long way off target in terms of sound structure, and not easy to recognise;
  • When he or she first combines two words in one utterance. There are different ways of defining what counts as a ‘word’ – both generally and in the context here. By the proposal here, there are significant steps in the process of putting words together, with “Bye, Daddy” by one step, and “See Daddy” by a later step. These steps are normally reached in the second half of the second year – by the age of two;
  • When he or she can be understood most of the time by adults who don’t know him or her (normally around three and a half). Sometimes this is said to be ‘talking perfectly’. But it is exceedingly rare for children to reach adult levels of speech and language as early as this.

Very rarely, a child of five can take part in discussion about matters of adult interest. Whether such children have truly adult syntax, as discussed under the heading of intervention, I don’t know.

See for a listing of roughly what might be expected when from six months to seventeen years.  The Ages and Stages framework is quite different from one assumed here. In one sense it is more detailed. In another sense it is less detailed than the three milestones here.

For better or worse, the framework of biolinguistics, assumed here, points to a focus on syntax and morphology, as opposed to discourse.