The Stages of Speech Development: A Proposal

Speech development in young children happens in stages. Even before they are able to utter complete words, children make sounds and sound sequences. Slowly but surely, babies start to learn letter sounds and later on form words. Between vegetative sounds and three-word combinations are small yet significant stages that signify developments in a child’s speech.

Proposed Stages of Development

1.      From 0-2 months old, babies produce vegetative sounds. These reflexive sounds like crying, burping, and coughing. These do not serve a purpose other than to express bodily functions (burping because of gas in their tummy, crying because of hunger, etc.).

2.      From 2-5 months old, babies start to make sounds that express comfort and content (e.g., cooing and laughter).

3.      From 4-8 months old, babies produce streams of sounds like longer cooing and laughter.

4.      From 7-13 months old, babies start babbling. There are two substages: (1) canonical babbling (7-10 months), where they make a series of consonant-vowel  (CV) syllables (ma-ma-ma, da-da-da) and vocalization of CVC sequences (non, mam, pup) or VCV sequences: (aba, oopoo, aya); (2) variegated babbling (11-13 months), in which babies learn diverse babbling (“me-moo,” “doo-da”).

5.      From 12-24 months old, babies enter the One Word Stage. In this stage, kids express feelings, wants, and needs. Their pronunciation is distinguishable. They can name and label people and objects around them (m, n, p, b, t, d, w sounds are well established).

6.      From 20-30 months old, babies enter the Two Word Stage, where they produce two-word combinations (“mommy milk,” “water please”), and consonant sounds for the following letters are consolidated: (k. g, ng, h).

7.      From 28 months and up, kids enter the Three Word Stage. In this stage, they start producing three-word combinations and quickly work their way up to four- or five-word combinations.

The Acquisition of Consonant Sounds 

Children acquire consonant sounds in a front-to-back pattern. Sounds for the letters m, p, b, and w are made at the front of the mouth, while sounds of the letters k, g, ng, and h are made at the back of the mouth.