Raising Standards Together

Wrong learning pack? Change pack

MEP learning pack

Masters in Educational Practice: Child and adolescent development 0-19


Speech, language and communication development



From birth to 19 years the language and communication capacity of a human being change immeasurably. From initial random sounds and gestures, children infer the repertoire of meaningful sounds in their native language and construct all the grammatical rules and exceptions they need to communicate with those around them.

As well as the verbal aspects of language, they learn non-verbal elements, such as gesture, facial expression and posture, together with ‘paralanguage’, for example, intonation and rate of speech. But it is not enough to know the mechanics of communication. As children mature they learn to adapt their manner of speech according to their audience and the pragmatic expectations of society. They begin to ‘play’ with language, making use of figurative expressions, idiom and puns, and they construct increasingly complex sentence structures.

In school they are introduced to different types of discourse and varied spoken registers, which encourage them to expand their vocabulary and language ability even further. For the ‘typical’ child this language development occurs without difficulty driven by the innate desire human beings have to communicate.

Additional materials

Burgoyne, K., Whiteley, H. E. & Hutchinson, J. M. (2011). The development of comprehension and reading-related skills in children learning English as an additional language and their monolingual English-speaking peers. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 81, 344–354.

Chall, J. (1987). Two vocabularies for reading: Recognition and meaning. In M. G. McKeown, & M. E. Curtis (Eds). The nature of vocabulary acquisition (pp. 7–17). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Eisenberg, S. L., Ukrainetz, T. A., Hsu, J. R., Kaderavek, J. N., Justice, L. M., & Gillam, R. B. (2008) Noun phrase elaboration in children’s spoken stories. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 39, 145–157.

Gunning, T. (2004).Creating literacy: Instruction for all students in grades 4 to 8. UpperSaddle, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Hackling, M., Smith, P. & Murcia, K. (2011) Enhancing classroom discourse in primary science: The Puppets Project. Teaching Science: The Journal of the Australian Science Teachers Association, 57 (2), 18–25.

Herold, D. S., Nygaard, L. C. & Namy, L. L. (2011) Say it like you mean it: mothers’ use of prosody to convey word meaning. Language and Speech, 55 (3), 423–436.

Hill, S. & Launder, N. (2010) Oral language and beginning to read. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 33 (3), 240–254.

Nippold, M. A., Mansfield, T. C., Billow, J. L. & Tomblin, J. B. (2009) Syntactic development in adolescents with a history of language impairments: a follow-up investigation. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 18, 241–251.

Nunan, D. (1989) Understanding Language Classrooms: A Guide for Teacher-initiated Action. Prentice-Hall

Parsons, S. & Schoon, I. (2011) Long-term outcomes for children with early language problems: beating the odds. Children and Society, 25, 202–214.

Spencer, S., Clegg, J. & Stackhouse, J. (2012) Language and disadvantage: a comparison of the language abilities of adolescents from two different socioeconomic areas.International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 47 (3), 274–284.

Spencer Ll. H. & Hanley, R. J. (2003) Effects of orthographic transparency on reading and phoneme awareness in children learning to read in Wales. British Journal of Psychology, 94, 1–28.

Vallotton, C. D. & Ayoub, C. C. (2010) Symbols build communication and thought: the role of gestures and words in the development of engagement skills and socio-emotional concepts during toddlerhood. Social Development, 19 (3), 601–626.

Wagner, D. & Herbel-Eisenmann, B. (2008) “Just don’t”: the suppression and invitation of dialogue in the mathematics classroom. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 67, 143–157.

Wankoff, L. S. (2011) Warning signs in the development of speech, language and communication: when to refer to a speech-language pathologist. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Nursing, 24, 175–184.

Westerveld, M. F. & Moran, C. A. (2011) Expository language skills of young school-age children. Language, Speech and Hearing Services within Schools, 42, 182–193.

Learning pack contents

Help us make the Digital Competence Framework better »

Use the form below to send us comments about this site or find out more about this beta version »

Need say more? Use the main Contact form »
Thankyou, your feedback has been submitted.
This is a Beta website.
Find out more »