Common Phonological Processes

Velar fronting: The /k/ and /g/ sounds are articulated by making contact between the back of the tongue and the velum or soft palate. Sometimes children produce these sounds as /t/ and /d/ respectively, making contact between the front of the tongue and the alveolar ridge just behind the front teeth. Children with velar fronting may pronounce can’t as tan’t orgoose as doose.

Palatal fronting: Similar to velar fronting, except that palatal sounds /sh, zh, ch, j/ are affected (shoe, vision, cheer, juice change to sue, vizzin, seer, zuice, respectively).

Final consonant deletion: Some children leave off the last sound of a word if that sound is a consonant. For example, they will pronounce boatas boe or feet as fee.

Initial consonant deletion: Some children omit the first sounds of words that begin with consonants (rice becomes ice).

Consonant cluster reduction: a consonant cluster is two or more consonants in a sequence without any vowels between them, such as the /sp/ combination in speak, spot, or the /skr/ combination in scrape, scream. A child may omit one of the sounds (speak, spot, become peak, pot, though they may sound more like beak, bot, since the /p/ sound in these words is unaspirated); or they may combine them into a completely new sound (scrape, scream become chape, cheam). If your child ever embarrassed you in public by reducing the /tr/ in truck to the /f/ sound, welcome to the club–we’ve got hats (truckers’ hats, in fact!). A consonant cluster may also occur in the middle of a word (picture, answer) or in final position (fast, felt,).

Assimilation: sometimes a sound will change to become more like a nearby sound (e.g., baseball becomes bapeball). The nearby sound may actually be separated by one or more sounds from the one that changes (e.g., yellow becomes lellow). Assimilation can be anticipatory, where a sound changes to resemble a sound that follows it (dog becomes gog), or it can be perseveratory, where it sounds more like a one that has already occurred (dog becomes dod).

Weak syllable deletion: This is pretty much what it sounds like. Unstressed syllables are weaker, i.e., less audible, than stressed syllables. An unstressed syllable just before a stressed one is in an especially weak position, and is very likely to be deleted. Constructionbecomes struction.

Metathesis: This is the reversal of adjacent or close sounds (askbecomes aks) or sound sequences (spaghetti becomes pasketti) Another example of methathesis is the pronunciation of nuclear as nucular. This switch is very common among adults, including such famous persons as George W. Bush; so if your child does this, don’t worry–he can still grow up to be the president of the United States! Former president Jimmy Carter also uses a nonstandard pronunciation that sounds more likenukia.

Gliding: The /w/ and /y/ sounds are classified as “glides.” Gliding is a phonological process typically affecting /r/ and /l/, which are classified as “liquids.” It’s probably safe to say that anyone who spends much time around Standard American English-speaking children has observed this process first-hand and can think of several children who pronounce /r/ and /l/ as /w/ (my right leg becomes my wight weg), or /l/ as /y/ (lemonade becomes yemonade). Less commonly, /r/ will be glided as /y/ (four becomes foy).

Stopping: Fricative consonants /s, z, f, v, th, sh, zh/ and affricates /ch, j/ involve air flowing through a narrow opening between two articulators (e.g., the top front teeth and the lower lip for /f/). If the articulators are pressed together instead of allowing space for the air together, a stop consonant /p, b, t/ or /d/ is produced instead. Face, vase become pace, basecheer, jeer become teer, deer.


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