Toddlers vary as to how soon they begin to combine words into sentences and on the complexity and completeness of their sentences. Their understanding of the importance of word order, however, begins soon after they begin using individual words.
Even 18-month-olds may use word order to express different meanings: “Kiss Teddy” means kiss the teddy bear; “Teddy kiss” means the bear will kiss you.
Talking in Families
Younger siblings sometimes follow a reverse pattern of language development. Rather than gradually combining individual words into more complex sentences, they begin by babbling in the intonation patterns of whole adult sentences.
They may sound like fluent speakers but of a language no one knows. Eventually, more and more real words sprinkle their babbled sentences, until they are speaking the same language as everyone else.
Children who live in language-intensive homes—where word play (including nursery rhymes and songs), reading and family dinner table conversations are everyday activities—acquire more language earlier and use it with more ease and effectiveness as they grow.
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