Monolingual Spoken English Developmental Milestones

A Brief History

Near the beginning of time our ancestors had a larynx, which was originally located at the top of the trachea, which differs to other primates. This allows for an increase in the range of sounds humans can make. This location makes it easier for human to have food go down the wrong pipe and choke, but has developed soley for speech.

The most intensive and crucial period of speech and language development is during the first three years of life. During this time the brain is nuturing and developing as well. A critical period hypothesis also exists which states that the ability to learn langauge does in fact occur during a specific time. This is clearly seen in history in the “wild” child and the case of Genie. In both of these cases, the child was exposed to language to late for the normal process of acqusiition and language milestones. It is best for a child to be surrounded by language in order to reach all of the milestones at the correct age.

0-6 Months:

  • Cooing, babbling
  • Continual awareness of sound (ex: turn head, stop crying when spoken to)
  • Use eye gaze to indicate interest

7-12 Months:

  • First true words (usually people or noun)
  • Repeat samesyllable (mama, dada)
  • Increased understading of daily rountines

12 Months:

  • Say 3-5 word
  • Recognizes his/her name
  • Uses gestures and vocalizations together
  • Understands common objects and actions (ex: run, juice, car)

18 Months:

  • Uses 10-20 words
  • Recognition of pictures of familiar persons and objects
  • Early 2 word combinations emerge
  • Needs are requested “want, up”
  • Point, gesture, follow simple commands, imitate simple actions

24 Months:

  • Understands simple question commands
  • Identifies familiar actions/activities in pictures (ex: sleeping, eating)
  • Follow directions to put pbjects “off, on, in”
  • Put two words together on average
  • Sentence length of up to three words
  • Child will refer to self by name
  • Label pictures
  • Final “s” used in plurals
  • Vocabualry may jump to 300 words during this year

3 Years:

  • Will talk during play
  • Can tell a basic story
  • Can use 3-4 word sentences
  • Can have vocab up to 1000 words

4 Years:

  • Follow 2-3 step commands
  • Will talk in the past tense correctly

5 Years:

  • Defines objects by their function
  • Uses 5-6 word sentences
  • Child can use different tenses (past, present, future)
  • Use a variety of sentences

Language developement milestones can also be observed in language content, form, and use.

Video on Speech, Language, and Hearing Milestones


Hoff, E. (2005). Language Development (3rd ed.). Belmont; CA: Wadsworth Publishing.

Holden, C. (2004). The origin of speech. Science, 303, 1316-1319