Language Development: first 2 years

Keeping an eye on your preemie's development can help you determine when a little help might be necessary

It’s amazing how quickly babies grow and develop! The table below highlights some important milestones. Although the table gives an average age at which milestones are achieved it is important to realize that even babies born at term achieve these milestones at varying ages. For preemies, you should always correct for their prematurity.

Language Development in Preemies: first 2 years

Have a look at the following information for typical development of aspects of language. You should talk to your pediatrician if you have any concerns about your preemie's development.


Age Phonology Semantics Grammar Pragmatics Metalinguistic Awareness
Birth – 1 month
  • Categorical speech perception is present (e.g. a giraffe is an animal)
  • Speech sounds become organised into phonemic categories of native language. An example of phoneme is the /a/ sound in the words apple and ape)
  • Variation in tone when speaking and sound patterns of babbling begin to resemble those of native language
  • Shows increased sensitivity to stress patterns and phoneme sequences in words of native language develops
  • Demonstrates preference for sound patterns of native tongue
  • Preverbal gestures develop
  • Understanding of natural sentence structure begins to develop
  • Can return attention to caregiver
  • Begin to engage in vocal exchanges and turn-taking games
1-2 years
  • Start to apply strategies to simplify word pronunciation
  • Produce their first words – increases to several hundred words
  • Object words are used first, followed soon after by action and state words
  • Simple two-word utterances of speech appear (e.g. “give ball”)
  • Start using grammatical morphemes (e.g. adding “ness” to “sad” to make “sadness”)
  • Become more skillful in conversational turn-taking and maintaining topic
These milestones represent overall age trends. There are individual differences in the exact age at which each milestone is attained (Berk, 2008).


Need help?

Try Preemie Help ebooks


Help us help you!

help us help you! is here to provide preemie information, community and solutions to the people that need it most... you!
Preemie Help is also looking to provide a resource for any professionals that have contact with preterm babies and children in order to help them best understand the challenges that face a preemie. Get in contact to help us impact preemies.

Preemie, Premmie, or Prem?

Most babies spend between 38 and 42 weeks in their mother’s uterus. So, technically a preterm birth, preemie, premmie, or prem, is an infant who is born less than 37 completed gestational weeks. 

Read More: Defining Preterm birth



New Release - Preemie Development

All in one easy to read eguide

‘The complete preemie guide to: ‘Preemie development’ is the must have guide to the NICU for new preemie parents.

With an easy-to-read layout this comprehensive guide is over 130 pages of important information about the NICU and your preemie.

Using Adobe’s .pdf format makes the guide usable across a wide range of platforms from ipad to PC, smartphone to macbook.

Packed with extra features like progress charts, NICU checklists and plenty of others. ‘The preemie guide’ is a must for any new parents.