Continuities and Discontinuities in Language Development over the First Two Years

  • Paula Menyuk
Part of the Cognition and Language: A Series in Psycholinguistics book series (CALS)


There are two distinct theoretical positions concerning the development of language over the first two years of life. The first, primarily held by linguists, claims that development over this age span could be discretely divided into a prelinguistic and a linguistic period. During the first of these periods the infant randomly babbles all the possible speech sounds of language and is not aware that speech sound sequences have meaning. Following this period, there is an interval of silence. It is during this interval that the infant, presumably, becomes aware of the meaningfulness of the speech signal and then systematically begins to acquire the speech sound distinctions, both perceptually and productively, of his or her own language. Thus, early verbal behavior was conceived of as being composed of two distinct or discontinuous periods (Jakobson, 1968). In like fashion the earliest linguistic behavior, word comprehension and word production, was differentiated from word combination, comprehension, and production. The earlier behavior was categorized as asyntactic or arelational and the latter as syntactic or relational (Bloom, 1973).


Speech Signal Language Development Speech Sound Normal Infant Communicative Intent 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paula Menyuk
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Reading and Language DevelopmentBoston UniversityUSA

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