Language disorder is characterized by persistent difficulties in the acquisition and use of language across modalities (i.e., spoken, written, sign language, or other) due to deficits in comprehension or production that include the following:
- Reduced vocabulary (word knowledge or use)
- Limited sentence structure (ability to put words and word endings together to form sentences)
- Impairments in discourse (ability to use vocabulary and connect sentences to explain or describe a topic or have a conversation)
Language learning and use is dependent on both receptive and expressive language skills. Expressive language disorders involve deficits in verbal and written expression. Deficits may involve articulation, vocabulary, sentence formation and memory. An adult’s language ability will lag behind that of his/her peers in areas such as word choice and usage, sentence formation and grammar. Receptive language disorders involve deficits in comprehension. In adults, signs of language disorder may include not listening to or following instructions and repeating words or phrases heard. A speech/language assessment is essential to determine the degree of deficits in either the expressive or receptive modalities, as these may differ in severity. For example, an adult’s expressive language may be severely impacted, while his or her receptive language is intact.
Language disorder usually affects vocabulary and grammar, which results in a limited capacity for conversation. Some of the common symptoms of language disorder include:
- Word-finding problems
- Minimal verbal vocabulary
- Poor understanding of synonyms, multiple meanings, or word play
- Problems remembering new words and sentences
- Difficulty remembering verbal information (i.e., shopping list, phone number).