Language is described as our form, content, and use of words to express ourselves to others. This is considered separate from our production of speech sounds. A client may have deficits in language development without showing deficits in speech sounds.

How is Language Different from Speech?

Language is different from speech in a number of ways. Speech involves the physical production of sounds, while language focused on the comprehension and expression of language. Language is composed of grammatical rules and vocabulary that allow us to make sense of the world around us. Language allows us to express ourselves verbally and in writing and understand what others are saying and reading. Language also includes the ability to use abstract concepts. Therefore, while both speech and language involve communication with others, they are distinct aspects of communication with distinct roles in our ability to convey meaning.


Two main domains of language that we assess are: expressive language and receptive language.

Expressive language skills refer to an individual's ability to express oneself. This includes the use of grammar, syntax, and word choice in order to communicate effectively. An expressive language disorder can be caused due to a variety of factors. It is essential for individuals who have difficulty expressing themselves to seek professional help from a speech-language pathologist. Speech-language pathology treatment can assess an individual's expressive language disorder and develop a treatment plan to address the areas of difficulty and language delays. With proper assessment and intervention from qualified professionals, many individuals are able to improve their expressive language skills and become more effective communicators.

Receptive language skills refer to an individual's ability to comprehend the meanings of spoken words and written texts. This includes being able to understand what is being said or read, as well as identify the intended message. Receiving help from a speech-language pathologist is important for individuals who are having difficulty with comprehension. A speech therapist can assess the person's strengths and weaknesses in this area and develop a plan to improve those deficits. With proper assessment and intervention, many individuals can learn techniques to enhance their receptive language skills and increasing their understanding of spoken language and written material.

How do I know if I or my child has a language disorder?

For children birth to 5, some language deficits may be related to a delay in speech development. They may also develop alongside other diagnoses. A language disorder may also indicate trouble with reading, conversing with others easily, expressing thoughts and feelings clearly.

There are a number of signs that may suggest your child has a language disorder. If there are difficulty understanding directions or expressing in ways appropriate for your child’s age, you should consult a qualified speech-language pathologist.

Someone with a language disorder may have some of the following signs:

  • Difficulty following directions
  • Difficulty naming objects
  • Incorrect use of grammar in spoken sentences
  • Limited vocabulary
  • Difficulty understanding humor or abstract concepts (riddles, idioms, etc.)
  • Difficulty responding to questions or asking questions
  • Incorrect use of verbs, plurals, or possessive nouns when speaking

If you recognize any of these issues in your child, it is important to seek professional help to properly assess the situation and develop an effective plan for improving language skills.

How Are Language Disorders Diagnosed?

Diagnosing language disorders begins with an evaluation by a speech-language pathologist. The evaluation includes assessing receptive and expressive testing through standardized tests that compare the client’s skills to the language skill averages of peers their age. After the information is collected, the speech-language pathologist will analyze it and determine if any impairments exist that would qualify someone as having a language disorder. The diagnosis may involve other medical professionals who can provide further insight into potential causes as appropriate. With proper diagnosis and treatment, individuals with language disorders can often achieve significant improvement in their communication skills.

Clinicians Providing These Services:
Megan Crisler Megan Zecher