Receptive & Expressive Language

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Before discussing receptive and expressive language it is important to first establish what language is…

What is language?

Language is a complex system of communication that allows humans to express and exchange information and ideas through the use of rule driven speech and symbols into meaningful messages. It is a uniquely human trait that is essential for social interaction, learning, and the transmission of culture.

While many species communicate with each other in various ways, language, as defined above, is generally considered to be exclusive to humans. Other animals communicate through various means such as vocalizations, body language, and chemical signals, but these are not considered to be true languages as they lack the complexity, flexibility, order, and generative capacity of human language.

Receptive and Expressive language

Receptive language and expressive language are two important components of human communication. Receptive language refers to the ability to understand and comprehend language, while expressive language refers to the ability to express oneself through language. Now lets break these down a little further…

Receptive language involves listening and understanding what others are saying. It allows us to understand the meaning of words, sentences, and other forms of language input. Receptive language skills are important for following directions, understanding conversations, and learning new information. Here are some examples of what someone with receptive language disorder may struggle with:

  • Tuning out when people talk
  • Trouble following directions
  • Trouble answering questions
  • Interrupting people who are speaking
  • Asking people to repeat what they say
  • Giving answers that are “off”
  • Misunderstanding what’s said
  • Not getting jokes

I should also note, a child with receptive language disorder may exhibit signs that may not seem related to language, such as getting angry or frustrated easily, becoming upset or anxious when company comes over, and struggling to make friends.

On the other hand, expressive language involves the ability to communicate ideas and thoughts through speech, writing, or other forms of language output. Expressive language skills allow us to express our thoughts and feelings, share ideas, and communicate effectively with others. Some examples of what someone may struggle with if they had an expressive language disorder include:

  • Limited vocabulary
  • Vague or imprecise language
  • Short and simple sentences
  • Difficulty putting words together to form meaningful sentences
  • Using the wrong words in a sentence
  • Omitting words when speaking
  • Hesitant or effortful speech
  • Difficulty recalling words or finding the right words to use
  • Difficulty using language to express emotions, needs, or wants

It is important to note that these symptoms can vary depending on the severity of the disorder and the individual’s age and cognitive abilities.

In summary, receptive language is focused on understanding language input, while expressive language is focused on producing language output. Both skills are important for effective communication and language development. If a child has difficulty with either receptive or expressive language, they may have a language disorder and benefit from therapy or other interventions. In the next article we will be discussing fluency!

Israel Montano