Expressive & Receptive Language: What is Considered Norm

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14 May 2008, 10:05 pm

Here's a stream of questions. If anyone can answer any of them, that would be delightful. If not, I'll just add this to my Threads Born Dead tally. :wink:

What is the definition of normal expressive language? Are you considered normal if you can speak in a manner that seems somewhat normal to others? What about language "eccentricities" such as stuttering, cluttering, frequent gaps in speech, frequent jumbling of words, and so on? What about selective mutism - does it mean that one's expressive language is not normal? Does it matter how effectively you translate your thoughts into speech? What if you use the same stock phrases over and over again because you can't come up with original things to say on the spot?

And what is considered normal receptive language? If a person has Auditory Processing Disorder and therefore hears a lot of things wrong in ordinary conversation, how could it be determined whether or not they have normal receptive language? Is comprehension involved in the definition? For instance, if I heard you correctly, but took your words literally and missed the symbolism or emotional content, would that be considered normal receptive language?

Sea Gull
Sea Gull

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15 May 2008, 12:21 am

My answer may not be what you want, because I find the word normal completely devoid of meaning in most discussions. However, replacing normal with healthy makes your questions easier for me to answer, even if that may not be what you are asking. So:

Healthy expressive language seems to be the ability to reasonably to convey desired information. Almost everyone has the language eccentricities you listed, though to different degrees. I don't have any references on hand, but I remember reading a report a while ago that detailed how gaps in speech, and fillers such as "umm.." or "like" are actually quite essential to ordinary conversational communication. They give time for the speaker to organize and "flesh out" their intended speech, as you probably noticed. Selective mutism, if I understand correctly, may have more to do with psychological trauma than a speech processing difficulty. I can't answer that with any confidence, though.

Effective translation of thought into speech is the entire basis of linguistic structure and the development of language. I believe the dissatisfaction many feel with their translation ability has led to the development of quirky yet incredibly accurate and descriptive words. The only problem with unusual lexicographic content is obvious enough: no one knows every word in their language. We had a brief discussion about this in a philosophy class I took last semester, and we (almost jokingly) concluded that selective telepathy would be the most convenient solution. Transfer of images is, I think, every frustrated individual's fantasy. I envy talented artists for their ability to transform their thoughts into pictures, though those can be misunderstood as easily as words, if not more so. So, yes. Your effectiveness matters, but this is not limited to neurological disorders. I'd even wager someone with an impoverished vocabulary is more prone to miscommunication than someone with a communication disorder!

I don't know enough about Auditory Processing Disorder to attempt your next question, but I hope that huge mass of text helped you :)


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15 May 2008, 7:43 am

Things like using stock phrases, or having difficulty formulating speech from thought, may not be considered normal expressive language However, stuttering, cluttering and the like are - I believe - considered aa part of speech, not language, so they would not have an effect on your expressive language level (i.e., someone who stutters can still have normal expressive language; they just happen to have a speech disorder as well).

As for receptive language, some forms of APD can alter your receptive language skills, but not your actual level of receptive language. Of course, they certainly make it difficult to test real receptive language and I don't have any idea how testers get around this obstacle. Not comprehending symbolism, though, is - again, I'm not 100% sure and I'm not referencing this - a deficit in receptive language when it's on a regular basis.