Typical Speech Sound Development

  • Age 2:
  • /h/ as in “help”
  • /m/ as in “more”
  • /n/ as in “no”
  • /p/ as “pot”
  • /b/ as in “bear”
  • /w/ as “we”

By age 3:

  • /t/ as in “top”
  • /k/ as in “car”
  • /g/ as in “go”
  • /f/ as in “feet”

By age 4:

  • J as in “jump”
  • Ng as in “sing”

By age 5:

  • Th as in “this”
  • Sh as in “shoe”
  • Ch as in “chew”
  • Zh as in “treasure”
  • Ch as in “cheese”
  • /l/ as in lay
  • Y as in “yes”

By age 6:

  • /v/ as in “vase”
  • /r/ as in “red”
  • /s/ as in “sun”
  • /z/ as in is “zebra”
  • Th as in “thing”
  • /s/ blends as in “she”
  • /r/ blends as in “tree”
  • /l/ blends as in “clay”

Language Development

Birth to 6 months

  • Reacts to loud sounds
  • Turns head toward a sound source
  • Watches your face when you speak
  • Vocalizes pleasure and displeasure sounds (laughs, giggles, cries, or fusses)
  • Makes noise when talked to
6 – 12 months

  • Initiates vocalizing to another person
  • Has different vocalizations for different emotional states (e.g. anger, contentment, hunger)
  • Understands “no-no”
  • Babbles (says “ba-ba-ba” or “ma-ma-ma”)
  • Tries to communicate by actions or gesture
  • Imitates novel sounds or actions
  • Understands 3 to 50 words
  • Vocalizes during play and to the mirror


12 – 18 months

  • Attends to a book or toy for about two minutes
  • Follows simple directions accompanied by gestures
  • Answers simple questions nonverbally
  • Points to objects, pictures, and family members
  • Says two to three words to label a person or object (pronunciation may not be clear)
  • Tries to imitate simple words
  • Requests objects by pointing, vocalizing, or using word approximations
  • Answers simple wh-questions (who, what, when, where and why) with a vocal response
  • Average receptive (understands) vocabulary of 200 words or more by 18 months
  • Average expressive (spoken) vocabulary of 50 to 100 words by 18 months


18 – 23 months

  • Enjoys being read to
  • Follows simple commands without gestures (get shoes)
  • Points to body parts such as “nose”
  • Understands simple verbs such as “eat,” “sleep”
  • Correctly pronounces most vowel sounds
  • Asks for common foods by name
  • Makes animal sounds such as “moo”
  • Starting to combine words such as “more milk”
  • Begins to use pronouns such as “mine”


2 – 3 years

  • Knows descriptive words such as “big,” “happy”
  • Knows some spatial concepts such as “in,” “on”
  • Knows pronouns such as “you,” “me,” “her”
  • Begins to use some verbs and adjectives
  • Average expressive (spoken) vocabulary of 200 to 300 words by 24
  • 65% intelligible (by 2 years)
  • Answers simple “wh” questions
  • Begins to use more pronouns such as “you,” “I”
  • Speaks in two to three-word phrases
  • Uses question inflection to ask for something (e.g., “My ball?”)
  • Begins to use plurals such as “shoes” or “socks” and regular past tense verbs such as “jumped”

3 – 4 years

  • Groups objects such as foods, clothes, etc.
  • Identifies colors
  • Understands 2000 words (by 4 years)
  • Uses 1000 to 1500 words (by 4 years)
  • Strangers are able to understand most of what is said.
  • Able to describe the function of objects such as “spoon”, “bed”, etc.
  • Has fun with language. Recognizes language absurdities such as, “Is that an elephant on your head?”
  • Expresses ideas and feelings.
  • Uses verbs that end in “ing,”
  • Uses Possessive ’s, simple past tense, present progressive verbs (e.g. “skipping”), contractions, “not”, and pronouns are consistent
  • Answers simple questions such as “What do you do when your hands are dirty?”
  • Repeats sentences

4 – 5 years

  • Understands more than 5,000 words
  • Understands spatial concepts such as “behind,” “next to”
  • Uses conjunctions “and” and “because”
  • Understands complex questions
  • Speech is understandable but makes mistakes pronouncing long, difficult, or complex words such as “hippopotamus”
  • Says about 3000 different words
  • Describes how to do things such as making a sandwich
  • Defines words
  • Lists items that belong in a category such as animals, vehicles, etc.
  • Answers “why” questions
  • Irregular plurals emerge (e.g. “mice”)

5 years

  • Understands time sequences (what happened first, second, third, etc.)
  • Carries out a series of three directions
  • Understands rhyming
  • Engages in conversation
  • Sentences can be 8 or more words in length
  • Uses compound and complex sentences including relative clauses (e.g. “My friend who lives down the street is coming over”), infinitive clauses with different subjects (e.g. “I want him to go), and gerund clauses (e.g. “Swimming is fun”)
  • Describes objects
  • Uses imagination to create story “chains” of unfocused sequences of events

From: Speech and Language Development Chart (2nd Ed.)