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The Difference Between Speech and Language- Definitions and Milestones

Article Written By: Victoria Mannella-Gupta

Did you know the words “Speech” and “Language” are not synonymous? You may have heard the title “Speech-Language Pathologist” shortened to “speech therapist” or “language therapist”. Although Speech-Language Pathologists do a lot more than just “speech” and “language”, these two words do not mean the same thing and are therefore not interchangeable!


  • How we say sounds and words

  • One of the ways humans can express language

  • Difficulty with articulation, voice, and fluency (stuttering) can be a speech disorder

  • It is important to look at speech milestones

-->If a child says “I fink” instead of “I think” at 3 years old, this does not mean

they have a speech disorder

--> However, if the child says “I fink” at age 6, this is an articulation error and therefore a speech problem

  • Did you know we use approximately 100 muscles to speak?

  • We use our stomach muscles, lungs, larynx, tongue, teeth, lips, and nose*


  • The words we use and how we use them

  • Language can be spoken, signed, or written

  • A language disorder is having difficulty understanding what words mean and having trouble using them such as putting words together into sentences, using correct pronouns, formulating questions etc.

  • Reading and writing difficulties can also be a language disorder

Speech and Language do not always occur together!

  • A child has difficulty saying their R sound (speech disorder)

  • An adult had a stroke resulting in slurred speech (speech disorder)

  • A child speaks clearly but has difficulty using the correct word order (language disorder)

  • An adult had a stroke resulting in difficulty comprehending speech (language disorder)

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

* Super Duper Handy Handouts:

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