Expressive Language

Expressive Language: What is it?

Speech and language pathologists may use the term “expressive language” when describing the needs of your child. To better understand expressive language it is important to understand its definition and use.  Expressive language is the output of language to communicate a want, need, thought, or idea.

Expressive language is a combination of one or more of the following features:Expressive Language

  1. What words mean: Language is symbolic by nature, therefore, each word represents an idea, item, verb, emotion, etc. Children first need to understand that when they say the word apple, they are representing the actual object of an apple.
  2. How to put words together: Understanding how to put words together is the next step to acquiring expressive language. In order to communicate more extensive or intricate ideas, children often need to combine words. For example, children learn that by saying “more milk” or “all done” they can relay more complex messages.
  3. How to make new words: Understanding that words can be changed to represent a new idea is another feature of expressive language. For example, children often struggle to properly use past tense of verbs. The word friend can be changed to friendly or unfriendly to represent new concepts.
  4. What word combinations are best for different situations: Children learn that in order to effectively communicate, they need to adjust their use of language depending on their surroundings. For example, children may say, “I want a cookie now!” while at home. However, at a birthday party with an unfamiliar adult children may say, “may I please have a cookie?”. This understanding of the social use of language is critical for children and often takes years to fully develop.

Understanding the use of language is extremely complex and can often be difficult for children. A speech and language pathologist can help assess if your child is struggling to properly learn or utilize the features of language.


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NSPT offers speech and language services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

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