The transformation of language ability in the first 18 months of life is truly remarkable. By the end of this period, your baby will understand perhaps hundreds of words and expressions. She will also have developed an especially effective form of communication with you — a system of sounds, syllables, words, gestures, signs, tons of voice, and invented words or silly sounds that will convey great meaning. She is also likely to enjoy sounds and words unto themselves, both for their sheer sensory delight and their use as tools of social exchange, emotional expressiveness, and learning. By 18 months, many of your child's utterances are likely to be understood not only by you, but by other adults as well. A lifetime of conversation will have begun.


Elements of Language
Language is a remarkably complex system, one we continue to learn throughout our lives. It is also essential to many aspects of learning and socialization. Researchers have identified three broad and different aspects of language:

• Receptive language: What infants understand from the language of others.

• Expressive language: How babies communicate to others through increasingly sophisticated speech and expanded vocabulary.

• Pragmatic language: All the subtle facets of language — facial expressions, body movements, tone, volume, inflection, ideas about when to speak and for how long. These additions are the amplifiers and fine-tuners of communication. They help infants and all of us to better express what we mean, and to understand what others are telling us.


Infants vary greatly in their linguistic styles and how they learn to receive, use, and even invent language.



From Right from Birth: Building Your Child's Foundation for Life by Craig T. Ramey, Ph.D., and Sharon L. Ramey, Ph.D. Available wherever books are sold. Copyright © 1999 by Goddard Press, Inc.