Speech Sound Disorders-Articulation and Phonology

Signs and symptoms of functional speech sound disorders include the following:

  • omissions/deletions—certain sounds are omitted or deleted (e.g., "cu" for "cup" and "poon" for "spoon")
  • substitutions—one or more sounds are substituted, which may result in loss of phonemic contrast (e.g., "thing" for "sing" and "wabbit" for "rabbit")
  • additions—one or more extra sounds are added or inserted into a word (e.g., "buhlack" for "black")
  • distortions—sounds are altered or changed (e.g., a lateral "s")
  • syllable-level errors—weak syllables are deleted (e.g., "tephone" for "telephone")

Signs and symptoms may occur as independent articulation errors or as phonological rule-based error patterns (see ASHA's resource on selected phonological processes [patterns] for examples). In addition to these common rule-based error patterns, idiosyncratic error patterns can also occur. For example, a child might substitute many sounds with a favorite or default sound, resulting in a considerable number of homonyms (e.g., shore, sore, chore, and tore might all be pronounced as door; Grunwell, 1987; Williams, 2003a).

Influence of Accent

An accent is the unique way that speech is pronounced by a group of people speaking the same language and is a natural part of spoken language. Accents may be regional; for example, someone from New York may sound different than someone from South Carolina. Foreign accents occur when a set of phonetic traits of one language are carried over when a person learns a new language. The first language acquired by a bilingual or multilingual individual can influence the pronunciation of speech sounds and the acquisition of phonotactic rules in subsequently acquired languages. No accent is "better" than another. Accents, like dialects, are not speech or language disorders but, rather, only reflect differences. See ASHA's Practice Portal pages on Bilingual Service Delivery and Cultural Competence.

Influence of Dialect

Not all sound substitutions and omissions are speech errors. Instead, they may be related to a feature of a speaker's dialect (a rule-governed language system that reflects the regional and social background of its speakers). Dialectal variations of a language may cross all linguistic parameters, including phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. An example of a dialectal variation in phonology occurs with speakers of African American English (AAE) when a "d" sound is used for a "th" sound (e.g., "dis" for "this"). This variation is not evidence of a speech sound disorder but, rather, one of the phonological features of AAE.

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) must distinguish between dialectal differences and communicative disorders and must

  • recognize all dialects as being rule-governed linguistic systems;
  • understand the rules and linguistic features of dialects represented by their clientele; and
  • be familiar with nondiscriminatory testing and dynamic assessment procedures, such as identifying potential sources of test bias, administering and scoring standardized tests using alternative methods, and analyzing test results in light of existing information regarding dialect use (see, e.g., McLeod, Verdon, & The International Expert Panel on Multilingual Children's Speech, 2017).

See ASHA's Practice Portal pages on Bilingual Service Delivery and Cultural Competence.

Content Disclaimer: The Practice Portal, ASHA policy documents, and guidelines contain information for use in all settings; however, members must consider all applicable local, state and federal requirements when applying the information in their specific work setting.