Speech and Language: The Basics
When first learning about speech and language, it’s important to define some basic terms. Many people use the words speech, language, and communication somewhat interchangeably. Speech-language therapists and audiologists, however, mean something very specific when using these three words. Luckily, the definitions of the words are really very easy to understand.
Communication is the broadest and most encompassing of these three terms. Communication occurs any time a message is somehow conveyed from one person to another. Communication can take place in a wide variety of ways. The most obvious form of communication is verbal speech—when we are talking to someone, we are clearly communicating a message to them (as long as they are listening to us, that is!). But communication can also be nonverbal, such as when you shrug your shoulders to indicate confusion, or shake your head to indicate displeasure, or use your best motherly stare from across the room to convey to your five-year old that he had better use his manners. In fact, much of communication is nonverbal; some studies have shown that even when we are directly speaking with someone, the words we choose account for less than 10% of the overall message, while body language and vocal intonation make up the rest.
Language is one very specific way of communicating with others. Language involves using a consistent and agreed upon
It can also be further divided into two, more specific, categories:
- Receptive Language, which is our ability to understand words and sentences that are spoken (or signed, or written) to us, and
- Expressive Language, which is our ability to use words and sentences to effectively communicate our message to others.
Finally, speech is the most specific and narrowly defined term. Speech occurs when we use verbal words to communicate with others. It requires us to put individual speech sounds together into words and speak them to someone else. The process of doing this—of forming sounds with our mouth and shaping them into words, phrases
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