Language is made up of socially shared rules that are broken up into different areas including semantics (what words mean), syntax (rules for how words can be put together to form sentences), and pragmatics (social uses of language). Phonology and morphology are the smallest units of language and provide rules for how sounds are organized to form words.
Speech and language challenges generally fall into two categories: receptive and expressive. A child can have deficits in one or both areas.
Receptive language is the understanding of language. Children with a receptive language disorder may have difficulty understanding what other people are saying to them. This lack of comprehension may result in inappropriate responses or failure to follow directions. Children with this disorder may have problems understanding terms such as abstract nouns, complex sentences, or spatial terms.
Expressive language is the production of language. A child with an expressive language disorder understands language better than he/she is able to communicate. For example, he/she may understand sophisticated words, but not be able to define the word or use it in a sentence. The child may be able to carry out complicated directions, but not be able to describe the steps. He/she may have difficulty putting sentences together coherently, using proper grammar, recalling the appropriate word to use, and typically has a smaller vocabulary than his or her peers. The child may also use generic words such as "stuff" and "thing" when relaying or retelling a story.