Different Ways to Process Language (gestalt and analytical)

Did you know that children can process language more than one way? Some children process language as gestalt language processors and some as analytical language processors.  

Gestalt language processors learn language in chunks or phrases rather than individual words. For example, a child who is a gestalt language processor may start saying short phrases before they use single words. They use these scripts to communicate (learnt chunks of language from TV shows, movies or favourite characters) with rich intonation. They may only have a few inconsistent single words, babble and use jargon. Most autistic individuals are gestalt language processors.  

In contrast, children who are analytical language processors first learn individual sounds and words before they begin to combine these words into phrases and later sentences. Analytical language processors may use lots of single words as they name objects that are important to them and then begin to label other objects. They then start to add 2-words together and then 3-words and so on.

Gestalt language processors most commonly develop language in the following order:  

  • Babble and jargon
  • Repeating phrases/ longer sentences (echolalia) word for word
  • Mix or use parts of these phrase chunks from previous phrases they have used  
  • Use single words – recognise words as individual rather than chunks (phrases)
  • Use single words to make up their own phrases and sentences (grammar might not be correct yet)
  • Stories
  • Conversation

Analytical processors most commonly develop language in the following order:

  • Babble and sounds
  • Single words
  • 2-words
  • Longer phrases (3 or 4 words)
  • Sentences
  • Stories
  • Conversation

The therapy approaches for a gestalt versus analytical language processor are very different as the language processes are different. For this reason, it is important to find a speech pathologist that can support your child using appropriate intervention strategies and approach. If your child is having difficulty with their expressive language skills (talking in words or sentences) you can contact a speech pathologist at Happy Dots on 4959 8920.


Blanc, M. (2012). Natural language acquisition on the autism spectrum: The journey from echolalia to self-generated language. Madison, WI: Communication Development Center

Blanc, M. (2013, March/April). Echolalia on the spectrum: The natural path to self-generated language. Autism/Asperger’s Digest. Retrieved from http://autismdigest.com/echolalia-onthe-spectrum/

Baltaxe, C. A. M., & Simmons, J. Q. (1977). Bedtime soliloquies and linguistic competence in autism. Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 42(3), 376-393.

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