Speech is very important for the child’s mental development. It significantly contributes to the formation of the child as a social being, because speech in addition to human bipedal walk is one of the basic characteristics of the men that distinguishes them from the animals.
Speech is associated with many different mental functions. The very first unarticulated sounds that a baby makes when sucking, swallowing and moaning, when expecting breastfeeding, are an expression of its feelings of satisfaction in these actions. As the child develops, speech becomes clearer and more expressive. Even before the first words are formed, the child is able to react with different voices to kind and unpleasant words from his surroundings, because it understands them even before it can pronounce them. At the second year, when it has already uttered certain words, the child can express its basic desires and needs and thus communicate communicatively with the people around it.
According to Rubinstein S. L., the baby, the toddler finds pleasure in the cooing and baby talk as such, no matter what it achieves with it. The voices follow different gestures of the child and over time they switch places. The more developed a child’s speech, the more the gesture decreases. A 3 year old child expresses most of the thoughts more often with gestures than with words, and already in 4 year olds the relationship between gesture and verbal expression has already been reversed.
By understanding someone else’s speech, the child understands what others are saying before and after that. Later speech greatly contributed to the development of his thinking, especially in the formation of abstract concepts. Speech is invaluable in achieving emotional contact with the environment. With the help of the speech, the child identifies with the adults around it, imitates them and learns from them. Thus, speech is based on much of a person’s mental development and socialization, that is, speech allows the child to communicate fully with other people, to collaborate with them and to build complex interpersonal relationships.
The speech in a narrower sense, the real speech, is considered a verbal expression of the psyche. But speech is also closely linked to the function of the brain and other brain activity. This is primarily an understanding of what others are saying, then recognizing and understanding the letters (reading) and expressing oneself (writing). All these forms of understanding and expression of thought are included in the term speech in the broadest sense of the word.
Speech can develop properly only under certain anatomical and physiological preconditions. The child must first have a normal hearing in order to be able to hear someone else’s speech, which is a prerequisite for being able to understand and reproduce it. But it must also be able to hear its speech so that it can correct, improve, and control it. The hearing is fully developed if the middle and inner ear are healthy as organs, if the auditory nerve is functioning properly, and if the corresponding brain structures responsible for speech function are properly formed or undamaged.
In front of the region of the brain that serves to understand speech, in the back of the left frontal cortex is the so-called motor speech center. Here, all the neural pathways are collected and from there they descend to the extended brain and control the functioning of the brain nerves, and these directly control the mouth and the tongue. The two fields of the cerebral cortex are interconnected by numerous nerve fibers. Therefore, damage to one of these centers by injury, bleeding, tumor, or other brain disease regularly causes a greater or lesser disturbance in the work of the other center and the ability to speak correctly.
The motor center enables speech itself with the help of speech organs. If one of them is underdeveloped or damaged, the child will not be able to speak, even though it has something to say. But speech also requires a certain level of intellectual development, that is, knowledge of ideas and concepts that reflect the intellect. Only then will the child have something to say.
If the child’s intelligence is underdeveloped or lags behind in development, and speech remains underdeveloped, too. Damage to intellectual function (dementia) regularly causes some speech delay because mental activity is largely linked to the cerebral cortex, and various brain damage can impair intellectual development, as well as the speech itself.
The brain’s areas that serves to understand the speech and the speech itself are connected with nerve fibers in those areas of the brain that control reading and writing. Therefore, in the case of injury to the area of the brain that is responsible for speech, it regularly causes obstacles in reading and writing, and such damage to these functions, in turn, causes difficulties in speech.
Only with the normal functioning of all these brain speech functions – the so-called central speech organs – peripheral speech organs can also produce intelligible and logical speech. These organs include the nuclei of the cerebral nerves in the elongated brain, whose fibers directly control the work of the respiratory and vocal muscles.
The muscles that form the voice include the muscles of the throat, drawstring, palate, tongue, and lips. When determining the shape and color of the voice, e.g. when forming certain voices and consonants, the oral and nasal cavities, the teeth, the hard palate, and the para-nasal sinuses in the facial bones are also involved.