Language milestones involve more than the number of words a child can speak. It's also about comprehending speech and using and understanding facial expressions and body language. Communication begins very early.
At 3 months, your child should be giggling and cooing. As mentioned earlier, she also may be smiling at familiar voices. That's cognitive development, certainly, but it's connected to language as well. She communicates what she has learned: Someone she likes is around.
By the time she is 7 months old, she should respond to her name and may start to acknowledge "no." (Then again, just because she understands, "No, don't eat the cookie," doesn't necessarily mean she won't do it anyway.) She will probably babble syllables in strings rather than as isolated sounds. But the babbling should be expressive -- you'll know whether she's happy or sad.
At 1 year old, parents will experience another delight: She should begin regularly calling to them, generally with the common terms "mama" and "dada." On the other hand, she'll probably use gestures for "no," such as an emphatic headshake signifying, "No, I don't want those mushy peas!"
In another year, she should be able to verbalize at least 50 words, and parents will usually understand at least half of them. She may put two words together, often to make her desires known: "Daddy, up!" or "No bed!"
By 3 years of age, she should be able to label ordinary objects and state her own name and age. At 4, she should know how to tell simple stories, and even strangers should be able to understand her speech. The following year, she should be able to articulate her full name and address.
Beyond early childhood, it's primarily a matter of more and better:
- Middle childhood (6 to 8): She should know about 40,000 words.
- Later childhood (9 to 11): She will likely change her style of language depending on the audience. For example, she may talk to her grandma differently than she'll talk to her friends.
- Early adolescence (12 to 14): She should understand figurative language, irony and sarcasm.
- Middle adolescence (15 to 17): She should be able to unravel adult literature. (She's finally beyond the young adult novels.)
From the first coo to a book report on "War and Peace," language development is fast and furious. Much of that language expression and reception takes place in social settings, so let's check out social and emotional developmental milestones next.