Articulation

Articulation is the process of physically producing speech. That might seem easy enough, right? Actually, articulation involves the complicated coordination of lips, tongue, teeth, top of the mouth(palate), and jaw to produce sounds. Even your lungs play an important part in articulation! All of these physical forces, also called motor functions, combine to form syllables, words, sounds—speech. Articulation is vital to how we communicate through speaking.

An articulation disorder is diagnosed when kids are unable to or show difficulty in producing certain sounds, or when they consistently mispronounce specific consonants and vowels. Children and teens who have articulation problems struggle with their motor functions to physically make accurate speech sounds. Their speech articulation is distorted, jumbled, or mixed. The result is the inability to form audible syllables and words.

Accurate and inaccurate articulations are sourced in several areas of the mouth. The technical speech therapy terms identifying these areas and sounds include:

 

Phonology

Phonology is an aspect of speech that involves rules for sequencing sounds. While articulation disorders produce speech errors, phonological disorders result in predictable, rule-based errors. Yes, there are unwritten rules for how we pattern our speech sounds! And there’s even a name for it. Each language has a variety of speech sound rules referred to as phonemes. For example, a phoneme rule in the English language has the /ng/ sound always occurring at the end of a word, as in “thing.”

Children develop speech skills by listening to and imitating adults around them. Some children have difficulty producing all the sounds they hear. To overcome this, the child’s brain creates shortcuts to simplify communication and make their words easier to speak. Or so it seems. Often, these shortcuts break the rules of speech sound sequencing.

For example, some sounds that are produced in the back of the mouth, such as /k/ and /g/, are challenging for kids to say. Children will often simplify the speech process by instead producing the sounds in the front of the mouth. This phonology error is known as fronting in speech therapy terms. You can practice this using the word “cookie.” Go for it! Say “cookie” out loud. Notice that the two /k/ sounds are produced at the back of your mouth. Children who struggle with phonology might pronounce “cookie” as“tootie,” by substituting the more easily produced /t/ sound.

Another example of a phonological rule error is final consonant deletion, as in the case of “dog” being spoken as “dah” and “cat” as “ca.” Final consonant deletion and fronting rule-based errors are two of the various types of phonological disorders, which also include:

 

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