Telegraphic Speech in Infants & Adults

Telegraphic speech examples in infants

Telegraphic speech is an important stage of language development that typically occurs in a child’s second year. Characterized by simple two-word sentences, this form of communication often consists of a noun and a verb, adhering to the grammatical standards of a culture’s language. During this phase, toddlers begin to express their thoughts and emotions, ultimately reducing frustration and helping them share their experiences with others.

Telegraphic speech examples in infants

As children progress through their language acquisition journey, telegraphic speech enables them to form simple yet meaningful phrases. Over time, their vocabulary expands, and their sentences grow more complex, incorporating additional grammatical categories such as adjectives. This crucial developmental stage prepares children for more advanced language skills, allowing them to participate fully in various social situations.

In infants, this stage lays the groundwork for more advanced language skills in the future. In some cases, telegraphic speech can also be present beyond infancy and into adulthood for those with ASD or aphasia, where sentences may extend beyond 2 words. In this article, we’ll cover both infant and adult cases and the differences and presentations of each.

Fundamentals of Telegraphic Speech

What Is Telegraphic Speech?

Telegraphic speech refers to a stage in language development where communication consists of simple two-word long sentences, often composed of a noun and a verb, that adhere to the grammatical standards of the culture’s language ^1^. These sentences primarily contain content words such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, while reducing or omitting free-standing and bound grammatical morphology like prepositions, articles, and conjunctions ^2^.

Telegraphic Speech in Infants

Telegraphic speech generally emerges during a child’s second year and plays a crucial role in their language development ^3^. At this stage, children can communicate their thoughts and feelings, which helps to prevent frustration and enables them to share their experiences ^4^. As infants continue to develop their language skills, their telegraphic speech will gradually evolve to include more complex sentences.

Stages of Speech

Telegraphic speech can be broken down into stages based on the child’s age and level of language development. Here are the key stages:

  1. Prelinguistic Stage (0-12 months): At this stage, infants coo and babble but do not yet produce any recognizable words.
  2. Holophrastic Stage (12-18 months): This stage is marked by the first production of one-word utterances, known as holophrases, which stand for entire thoughts or requests.
  3. Two-word Stage (18-24 months): Children begin to combine words, producing two-word telegraphic speech phrases that primarily convey the meaning of content words.
  4. Telegraphic Stage (24-36 months): At this stage, children’s speech expands beyond the two-word phrase and starts to include some function words and morphemes. However, it remains highly simplified and concise.

As children progress through these stages, their language will gradually incorporate more sophisticated grammar and vocabulary, ultimately developing complete sentences.

Examples and Types of Telegraphic Speech

Examples of Telegraphic Speech

Telegraphic speech is a stage in language development when children use simplified sentences, often composed of nouns and verbs, and omit unnecessary words. Typical examples of telegraphic speech in toddlers include phrases like “Mommy go” or “Daddy eat.” It is an essential step in language acquisition as it demonstrates the child’s understanding of basic syntax and their ability to convey meaning with minimal words. More instances of such speech can be found on ThoughtCo.

Two-Word Utterance

Two-word utterances are a common type of telegraphic speech used by children during the early stages of language development. They represent a significant milestone as children start combining nouns and verbs or other essential words to communicate more complex ideas. Examples of two-word utterances include “want juice,” “more cookie,” or “dog bark.” During this stage, children adhere to the grammatical standards of their native language as explained on Wikipedia.

Telegraphic Speech in Various Contexts


Aphasia is a neurological disorder that affects the language skills of an individual. Telegraphic speech can be seen in people with aphasia, where their speech is often characterized by the use of three-word short phrases or sentences that consist of main content words, while omitting functional words and morphemes, such as articles, prepositions, and tense morphemes.

Aphasia Telegraphic Speech Examples

Aphasia is a condition in which a person’s ability to communicate is impaired due to brain damage. In aphasia, telegraphic speech examples might include phrases such as:

  • Eat food
  • Want drink
  • Go park

These examples show a reduction of grammatical structure and a focus on content words (source).

Telegraphic Speech in Psychology

In psychology, telegraphic speech is a form of communication consisting of simple two-word long sentences, often composed of a noun and a verb that adhere to the grammatical standards of the culture’s language (source). This type of speech is common during early language development as children start to communicate their thoughts and feelings to others.

Telegraphic Speech and Autism

Autism is a developmental disorder that affects communication and social interaction. While telegraphic speech is usually associated with early language development, those with autism may continue to exhibit telegraphic speech patterns beyond the typical age range. This can make communication with others challenging, but with therapy and support, improvements can be made.

Telegraphic Speech in Adults

Although telegraphic speech is primarily associated with early child language development, it can also be observed in adults, particularly in situations where individuals are recovering from language impairments due to conditions such as aphasia or traumatic brain injury.

Telegraphic Speech Examples in Psychology

Some examples of telegraphic speech in a psychological context could include:

  • A toddler saying: “Mommy go store”
  • An aphasic adult saying: “Need help”
  • An autistic person saying: “Hungry now”

These examples demonstrate the simplicity, content-focused nature, and grammatical omissions characterizing telegraphic speech in various contexts.

Importance of Telegraphic Speech

Telegraphic speech is a stage in children’s language development where they communicate using multi-word sentences, focusing on key content words and leaving out grammatical words and structures. This way of speaking is essential for a child’s growth in various aspects of life, including communication skills, thinking, problem-solving, and relationship building 1.

One of the main advantages of telegraphic speech is that it enables children to convey their needs, desires, and emotions effectively using a limited vocabulary. This essential aspect of speech development allows them to practice essential language skills in a manageable way before becoming proficient at full sentences 2.

Furthermore, telegraphic speech allows caregivers and parents to recognize a child’s progress in language development. The presence and improvement of telegraphic speech often indicate that the child is successfully learning and using new words, demonstrating that their language skills are developing correctly.

Another crucial aspect related to telegraphic speech is that it sets the foundation for more complex language structures. As children practice talking, they gradually acquire the ability to use correct grammar and syntax, which leads to more efficient communication and understanding later in life 3.

Reference sources:

  1. Healthline
  2. Speech and Sound Clinic
  3. MomJunction

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