How Does Language Develop?

The Journey From “Media Sensory Communication” Through Monologue Via Dialogue


In everyday use, ‘language’ is usually taken to mean that which is spoken aloud. However, we communicate from birth using a range of modalities and as adults we do not always need to use the spoken word to share meanings with others. The term “media sensory communication” is useful here as a phrase referring to sense-based communication between two people who have a sense of a shared language. This intimate form of communication consists of not just words, but gestures, shared meanings, unique nuances, and memories.

Media sensory communication is an effective way of overcoming the basic otherness we encounter in others. Those we love are often the people who we perceive as being able to understand our own private language that is comprised of unique symbols and signs, both verbal and non-verbal in nature.

It is this kind of communication that forms the basis of a deep feeling of mutual understanding. The greater our investment in this form of communication, the stronger and more intimate the bonds between ourselves and others with whom we share this modality.

Development of language

language development


How does this capacity develop? From the beginning of life, a foetus can hear words and music prior to birth. During the oral stage, the baby may not understand the meaning of such utterances, but they form and solidify the emotional bonds between the baby and caregiver.

During the anal stage, a toddler begins to crave self-expression. He begins to speak in meaningful sentences but still often talks gibberish”. However, this language is shared with his parents, who can increasingly understand his wants and needs. They may not always be able to listen every time he speaks, and for this reason, the toddler may frequently end up engaging in monologue rather than dialogue. At approximately two and a half years of age, he comes to appreciate that “gibberish” speech is insufficient if he is to receive the understanding he truly craves.

During toddlerhood, a child will devote much time and energy to the narcissistic mastery of language. He is adamant that others should listen to him, and if they do not, he will often redouble his efforts to make himself understood. This drive to engage in more reliably meaningful communication with parents and other caregivers may herald the start of dialogue, which is essential for relating fully to other human beings as he embarks on life as an older child, then as an adult.

To learn more about the effect of our very earliest experiences on our later lives, read my book “The Enigma Of Childhood: The Profound Impact of the First Years of Life on Adults as Couples and Parents” available from Amazon and direct from Karnac Books.

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