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What are Phonological Processes?

Many children's intelligibility is impacted by the use of phonological processes. These are simpliciations of difficult-to-produce adult sounds. 


Phonological processes and are a way in which typically developing children simplify adult speech patterns. Some examples of commonly used phonological processes include but are not limited to: 

  • Affrication: replacement of a fricative consonant with an affricate consonant. For example: sun-tsun, zoo, dzoo.

  • Alveolarization: replacement of consonants made with the teeth or lips with consonants made at the alveolar ridge. For exapmple: four-sore, thick-sick.

  • Assimilation: prudction of a phoneme that is more like another phoneme in the target word. For example: cup-pup, dog-gog, kitty-kiki.

  • Backing: substitution of a posterior consonant for an anterior consonant. Posterior consonants include: k, g, ng, h. For example: top-cop, do-goo.

  • Cluster Reduction: deletion or replacement of one or more consonants in a consonant cluster, or two sounds together. For example: stop- top, black- back.

  • Consonant Deletion: omission of a consonant in the word initial or word final position. For example: cat- at, cup-cuh.

  • Deaffrication: replacement of an affricate consonant with a fricative consonant, or change of an affricate target phoneme to a stop. For example: chair- share, chair- tair. 

  • Denasalization: nasals become denasal. For example: mom- bob, neck-deck.

  • Devoicing: deletion of voicing from voiced consonants.

  • Depalatalization: movement of the place of articulation of a palatal sound from the palate to a position forward in the mouth, typically the alveolar region.

  • Epenthesis: addition of consonants or vowels. For example: bread-buhread.

  • Fronting: replacement of back consonants and palatal consonants with consonants produced at or in front of the alveolar ridge. For example: go-do, cop-pop, shoe-sue.

  • Gliding: production of liquids /l/ and /r/ as glides /w/ and /j/. For example: red-wed, lion-yion.

  • Labialization: replacement of consonants made with the tongue with consonants made with the lips.

  • Metathesis: the position of two sounds is reversed, although both sounds are produced correctly. For example: spaghetti-pisghetti.

  • Palatalization: alveolar fricatives become palatals. For example: sun-shun.

  • Reduplication: repetition of phonemes or syllables. For example: bottle-baba.

  • Stopping: replacement of continuing consonants or affricates with stop consonants. For example: shop-top, zoo-do.

  • Stridency Deletion: omission of strident consonants or replacement of them with non-strident consonants.

  • Syllable Deletion: omission of one syllable of a multi-syllable word, usually the weaker unstressed syllable.

  • Vocalization: final position vocalic /l/ and /er/ becomes rounded vowels /u/ or /o/. 

  • Vowelization: substitution of a vowel for a consonant.

Phonological processes typically begin to disappear, or are suppressed by the age of four. However, developmental speech-sound norms differ in age and gender for each speech sound and cluster. The more phonological processes used together by a child at once, the more difficult it may be for a child to be understood by both familiar and unfamiliar conversation partners.

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