Developed language is an ability unique to man:
By one year of age, infants are using one or more words with meaning. By eighteen months, their vocabulary consists of 20 words, and one-fourth of their speech is intelligible. By two years, their vocabulary grows to 200 words, and two-thirds of what they say is intelligible. By three years, the vocabulary has ballooned to 1,000 words, 90 percent of which are intelligible.
By the time they enter school, the vocabulary has risen to 3,000 to 4,000 words. This trajectory of language and vocabulary acquisition continues in an upward climb (except perhaps for the adolescent years, when vocabulary regresses back to a few words such as "boring" and "whatever").
The average adult has an active or use vocabulary of 10,000 words and a passive or recognition vocabulary of 30,000 to 40,000 words. For comparison, WEBSTER'S NEW INTERNATIONAL DICTIONARY defines 400,000 words, and the English language provably contains one million words--no one knows the exact number.
Richard A. Swenson, MD, is a medical doctor and award winning author of several acclaimed books. He travels extensively, speaking to a variety of business, denominational and government groups on issues of faith and reason, stress, complexity, social change, and management.
We spend ten to twelve cumulative years of our lives talking. And of course this talking is in the context of other people. Helen Keller deaf and blind since infancy maintained that the gift of hearing was far more important than the gift of sight--because hearing allows the gift of speech, and speech allows the nurturing of relationship. Language connects us to the hearts of others in a way that nothing else can.
"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear" (Ephesians 4:29, ESV).