Two Types of Language Development

Jul 07, 2022

Did you know there are two ways children can develop language?!

Most people are familiar with Analytic Language Development.  Children start speaking by babbling, move onto words, then two word combinations, phrases, sentences and eventually conversation while developing grammar.  In Gestalt Language Development children arrive at the same place- original, flexible language BUT the steps to getting there are much different.  Gestalt language processors (or GLPs)  start out with a phrase, complete sentence or word that holds larger meaning for them and usually is intonationally defined.  They then move on to mitigated echolalia where they are able to mix and match parts or chunks of language from the original gestalt (or script).  In stage 3 they begin to process words as units and "free" single words from the larger chunks or gestalts and begin to create two word combinations. In stage 4 GLPs begin to create novel utterances with beginning grammar (stages 5-6 are advanced and complex grammar).  So, same ending but MUCH different process!

Prizant and Wetherby outlined these two types of language development in "Profiling Young Children's Communication Competence" in 1992.  They called analytic language processors "word babies" and gestalt language processors "intonation babies."  They pointed out that analytic language processors's basic units of language are single words, language use is generalized to relevant objects and events quickly, focus on referential use of utterances (labeling objects) and semantic relationships of language.  Gestalt language processors's basic units of language may be words, phrases and/or complete sentences, language use remains specific to situational contexts for longer periods of time, focus on intonation and social interaction structure of language.

My mentor, speech-language pathologist, Marge Blanc coined the term "Natural Language Acquisition" when she published her book by the same title in 2012.  The NLA framework guides our therapy as speech-language pathologists working with GLPs.  Research from Prizant et al, Dr. Ann Peters and Marge's 20 years of clinical longitudinal research are in the book.  Marge's book is also very parent friendly and teaches parents how to model language for their kids at home.  

Check out our Instagram post on this topic and comparing the two way to develop language here.

You can also find our GLP freebie and our handbook + course here.


Thanks for reading, 

Alexandria Zachos

Speech-Language Pathologist


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