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A language disorder refers to a difficulty understanding or putting words together to communicate ideas.

What is Language?

Language is different from speech.  Language is made up of socially shared rules that include the following:

  • What words mean (e.g., "star" can refer to a bright object in the night sky or a celebrity)

  • How to make new words (e.g., friend, friendly, unfriendly)

  • How to put words together (e.g., "Peg walked to the new store" rather than "Peg walk store new")

  • What word combinations are best in what situations ("Would you mind moving your foot?" could quickly change to "Get off my foot, please!" if the first request did not produce results)

Language therapy may be provided for children with developmental delays, learning disabilities, brain injury, or other neurological conditions. It may also help adults who have learning disabilities, or who have experienced stroke, heart attack, brain injury, or other neurological conditions.

Language disorders can be either receptive, expressive, or both. Receptive language disorders include difficulty understanding or processing language. Expressive language disorders include difficulty putting words together, limited vocabulary, inability to use language in a socially appropriate manner, or difficulty sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings completely.


Aphasia is a type of language disorder caused by damage to the parts of the brain that control language. It may affect your ability to speak, listen, read, or write. It is most common in adults who have had a stroke. Brain tumors, infections, injuries, and dementia can also cause it. The type of problem you have and the severity depends on which part of your brain is damaged and how much damage there is.

Language Therapy

Commonly, language therapy is provided for children due to a developmental delay. One out of 5 children will learn to talk or use words later than other children their age. Some children will also show behavioral problems because they are frustrated when they can't express what they need or want.

During language therapy, the following aspects of language are addressed:

  • phonology (the organization of sounds within words)

  • morphology (the structure of words)

  • syntax (how sentences are formed)

  • semantics (the meaning of words)

  • pragmatics (social aspects of communication) including comprehension and expression in oral, written, graphic, and signing

  • language processing which includes language-based literacy skills and phonological awareness

It is possible and common for a patient to have both a speech and a language disorder. A speech therapist or speech-language pathologist certified by ASHA (American Speech Language and Hearing Association) can help evaluate the speech and language problems.


"Aphasia." Aphasia. Accessed May 2, 2015.

"Aphasia." Aphasia. Accessed May 2, 2015.

"What Is Language? What Is Speech?" What Is Language? What Is Speech? Accessed May 2, 2015.

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