January 20, 2016

Milestones of Language Acquisition

Hi everyone!

I was doing a little research on language acquisition and came across this Table.  (Note. From Language Disorders From Infants Through Adolescence: Assessment and Intervention, by R. Paul, 2001, Philadelphia)
As I read through it I started comparing it to the language levels of the ELD matrix.  It was very interesting to compare native language acquisition according to the below table against second language acquistion by language level.

If you are interested in doing the same here is a link to the ELD matrix.

Table 1 Milestones of Language Content
 Typical Age Content Milestones

8–12 mos. Understand 3–50 words.
First words are used for names of familiar people and objects; communicative games and routines; to talk about appearance,
disappearance, recurrence.

12–18 mos. Average expressive vocabulary size: 50–100 words at 18 mos.
Semantic roles are expressed in one-word speech, including agent, action, object, location, possession, rejection, disappearance, nonexistence, denial.
Words are understood outside of routine games; still need contextual support for lexical comprehension.

18–24 mos. Average expressive vocabulary size: 200–300 words at 24 mos.
Prevalent relations expressed: agent–action, agent–object, action–object, action–location, entity–location, possessor–possession, demonstrative–entity, attribute–entity.

24–30 mos. Understanding and use of questions about objects (What?), people (Who?), and basic events (What is x doing?   Where is x going?).
30–36 mos. Use and understand Why? questions.
Use and understand basic spatial terms (in, on, under, etc.).

36–42 mos. Use and understand semantic relationship between adjacent and conjoined sentences, including additive, temporal, causal, contrastive.
Understand basic color words.  Use and understand basic kinship terms.

42–48 mos. Use and understand ‘‘when’’ and ‘‘how’’ questions.
Understand words for basic shapes (circle, square, triangle).
Use and understand basic size vocabulary (big, small).
Use conjunctions and and because to conjoin sentences.

48–60 mos. Knowledge of letter names and sounds emerges.
Knowledge of numbers and counting emerges.
Use conjunctions when, so, because, and if.

5–7 years Reorganization of lexical knowledge from episodic to semantic networks occurs.
Average expressive vocabulary size: 5,000 words.

7–9 years School introduces new words not encountered in conversation.
Pronouns used anaphorically to refer to nouns previously named.
Word definitions include synonyms and categories.  Some words understood to have multiple meanings.
Capacity for production of figurative language increases.

9–12 years Vocabulary in school texts is more abstract and specific than that in conversation.
Students are expected to acquire new information from written texts.
Can explain relationships between meanings of multiple-meaning words.
Begin using adverbial conjunctions.  Understand most common idioms.

12–14 years Abstract dictionary definitions given for words.
Can explain meaning of proverbs in context.

15–18 years Average vocabulary size of high school graduate: 10,000 words.

Note. From Language Disorders From Infants Through Adolescence: Assessment and Intervention, by R. Paul, 2001, Philadelphia:

Happy Teaching!


  1. Having students rewrite the rules in their own words is a great idea that I had never thought of. I will definitely give it a try!

    ielts test

  2. It was interesting to read that a native speaker of English may have an expressive vocabulary of up to 5,ooo words by kindergarten through fifth grade. A kindergarten student's vocabulary is often cited as a high indicator of furture academic success. However, ELLs maintaining fluency in their native language is especially crucial at this age as literacy skills do transfer.