Infant Language Development

Did you know as an infant your baby is developing language skills? Children develop language in steps or stages. In this article you will learn about the early vocalizations of Infant Language Development.

Your child’s first word typically comes between the ages of 11 and 13 months of age, with a range of 8 to 18 months being considered normal. Can you imagine for the first twelve months your child has been listening and absorbing many words and sounds in their environment, preparing them for that first little word?  It is no surprise some of their first words are mama, bye bye, dada and no. First words tend to be brief, consisting of one or two syllables. But how did they get to this step? We will look at 4 areas of language development.



Babies Firsts Sounds

 1.      Cries and Cooing: or vocalizations made by the infant. Cries, Coos, and Babbles. These are little sounds your infant might make. Though these are not exactly a form of language but they can symbolize a feeling of pleasure or positive excitement.  (as infants tend not to coo when hungry, tired or in pain). The first sound your infant will make is there often very distinct new born cry, but by two months they begin to coo, babble and smile when spoken too. 


Tip: To initiate an early child-parent conversation try responding back to your infants coo’s with a short coo and then a pause for your infants coos. Remember not to bombard your infant with language in response to their coos-just a small coo and then a pause- waiting for them to repeat and then you may give a short coo back in response (repeat). This gives your infant an awareness of relating to other people through taking turns.

2.     Babbling: Babbling is a fun vocalization that can sound like human speech. This usually occurs between 6 and 9 months of age. Babbling usually combines vowels and consonants like bababa, dadada, and gagaga. Some scientists also believe the first dada is purely coincidental and doesn’t reflect labeling of the parent figure. (Sorry, dads)


Tip: Expose your infant to different sounds. You can make sounds such as auh, bah, dah, ee, and  mm. Also speak and sing to your infant throughout the day. Even activities such as changing their diaper can be a great face to face language development time. Remember to pause and let them speak too. Your infant will respond better when they are not overwhelmed with long sentences or difficult words.

3.     Echolalia: The automatic repetition of sounds and words. You child will soon turn those little das, bas, and gas into longer more dramatic string of sounds such as ah-ba-ba-ga-ga-ga Sometimes parents might hear there little ones go on and on repeating consonant and vowel combinations- then pausing and switching back to a combination. It is quite fun to hear them as they sound like they are in their own little conversations.


4.     Intonation: The use of pitches of varying levels to help communicate meaning. During this stage of language development you child is about the age of 11 months and begins to use patterns of rising and falling in their speech. For example when we ask a question we have a slight rise towards the end of the question. Say to yourself out loud: “Do you want the red paper or blue paper?” You voice might have changed when given the person a choice or raised during the end of the question.  Though you may not realize it, when speaking our voices rise and fall. The same will begin for your child around their first birthday.




Age of Child

Vocalization and Language



12 Weeks

Less Crying

Responds by Smiling

Makes Cooing Sounds (15-20 seconds)

16 Weeks

Will turn head toward noise or sound

May chuckle or giggle

Responds to human voices

20 Weeks

Vocalizations become stronger

more variations in sounds occur

6 Months

Single Syllable Babbling Begins

Some common sounds will be maa, mu, da, di

8 Months

Intonation Begins

Babbling is more skillful, may hear emotion or emphasis in babbles

10 months

May start to imitate other people

Vocalizations are mixed with sound play, such as bubble blowing, intonations and consonant-vowel babble.

12 months

Words emerge (mama or dada)

Can understand many words and requests (where’s your shoe? Or Show me your nose.)


Great Fact:18 Months is considered near the Language Explosion Period.

During this time you will hear an explosion of words from your toddler. They begin saying new words and putting them together in two to three word sentences. At this stage they like to over generalize and label everything with one or two word phrases. Don’t worry, this is all normal.  A good rule of thumb to go by is if your child is picking up one to two words per week after 18 months of age they are developing just great. If not, contact your doctor for further assistance, questions or concerns.

Twin Toddlers using intonation.