Phonological Processes: The Essentials | HomeSpeechHome.com

Phonological Processes:
The Essentials

What Are They?


Typical patterns of error used by all children when they try to imitate adults as they are developing speech.


What is a Phonological Disorder?


When a child uses incorrect speech patterns by making errors on sound patterns or sound blends. (see typical phon. processes chart below)

Our Phonological Process Finder App helps identify these processes quickly and accurately.

What Causes It?


Correct speech becomes easier as a child's tongue and motor skills mature and gain experience.

Sometimes a child holds onto these "baby" or "immature" patterns of speech simply because they are not aware that they are saying sounds wrong. 

If a child continues to use these processes, the result is a developmental phonological disorder.

One of the most common types is a pattern known as "velar fronting" or "fronting" for short.

This happens when a child says a sound in the front of their mouth that should be made in the back. Typically...

/k/ is replaced with /t/

  • /cup/ is pronounced /tup/

  • /pack/ is pronounced /pat/

and...

/g/ is replaced with /d/

  • /go/ is pronounced /doh/

  • /beg/ is pronounced /bed/

...these examples show that phonological processes can happen at the beginning and ends of words but there are many more variations to this disorder. 


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SEE ALSO: 8 Activities for Using Multi-syllabic Words

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When our oldest daughter was about 22 months old, she replaced some front sounds with back sounds. 

Sometimes she would say "bike" when she was really asking for a "bite" of food. This is called backing.

Fortunately for her, her mom and dad are Speech Pathologists so we knew it was O.K. at the time...

...but we monitored it until she grew out of it.

This chart can help you keep an eye on your child's speech if you suspect they are using phonological processes. 

You can download a free copy of this chart below, simply click the text or image below.

If you know someone who could benefit from the Phonological Processes chart, please share it this page by using the buttons you see on the screen. Thank you. 


Download Your Free Copy of the Phonological Processes Chart


Typical Phonological Process Development


Substitution Processes - when one class of sounds is replaced for another class of sounds.


Stopping (Stop) - When a child substitutes a stop (b, p, d, t, g, k) for a fricative (s, z, f, v, th's, h, sh,and zh as in measure).

Examples

/pat/ for fat

/pine/ for vine 

/tear/ for share

/dob/ for job 

/take/ for shake

/tope/ for soap

/pum/ for thumb

Gone by Age

3 yrs.

3 1/2 yrs.

4 1/2 yrs.

4 1/2 yrs.

4 1/2 yrs.

3 yrs.

5 yrs.



Deaffrication - When a child replaces an affricate (ch, dz as in judge) with a stop (b, p, d, t, g, k) or a fricative (s, z, f, v, th's, h, sh, and zh as in measure).

Examples

/tear/ for chair

/sop/ for chop

/karm/ for charm

/dob/ for job

/dim/ for gym

/zan/ for Jan

Gone by Age

4 yrs.



Velar Fronting (VF) - When a child replaces a velar sound (k, g, ng) with a sound that is made toward the front of the mouth

Fronting usually happens more often in the beginning of words compared to the end.

Examples

/top/ for cop

/reen/ for ring 

/tup/ for cup 

/doh/ for go 

/tum/ for gum

Gone by Age

3 1/2 yrs.

 3 1/2 yrs.

3 1/2 yrs.

3 1/2 yrs.

3 1/2 yrs.



Depalatalization (Dep) - When a child substitutes an alveolar fricative (s, z) for a palatal fricative (sh, and zh as in measure).

Examples

/tek/ for check 

/matsiz/ for matches

/dudz/ for judge

/dane/ for Jane

Gone by Age

5 yrs.



Backing - When a child substitutes a front sound (t, d) with a back sound (k, g).

Examples

/kop/ for top 

/hope/ for soap

/gime/ for dime

/bike/ for bite

Gone by Age

*This occurs in children with severe phonological disorders.



Liquid Gliding (LG) - When a child substitutes a glide sound (w, y) for a liquid sound (r, l).

This can also occur in consonant clusters.

Examples

/wabbit/ for rabbit 

/wook/ for look

/wing/ for ring

/yeef/ for leaf

/bwed/ for bread 

/gween/ for green 

/bwack/ for black

/gwas/ for glass

Gone by Age

5 yrs.


5 yrs.


5 yrs.

5 yrs.



Vocalization (Voc) - This is also known as vowelization and happens when a child substitutes a vowel for a syllabic liquid.

Examples

/simpo/ for simple 

/abuh/ for able

/tabo/ for table

/papo/ for paper

Gone by Age

Not Available




Syllable Structure Processes - sound changes that modify the syllablic structure of words


Unstressed Syllable Deletion (USD) - When a child doesn't say the syllable with the least amount of stress.

Examples

/medo/ for tomato

/tefon/ for telephone 

/efant/ for elephant 

/nana/ for banana 

/side/ for outside 

Gone by Age

4 yrs.

4 yrs.

4 yrs.

4 yrs.

4 yrs.



Reduplication (Redup) - When a child repeats a syllable of a target word which creates a multi-syllabic word form.

Reduplication can be
Total or Partial.

Examples

Total

/baba/ for bottle 

/dada/ for dog

/tata/ for television 

 

Gone by Age

2 1/2 yrs.

2 1/2 yrs.

2 1/2 yrs.

Partial

/bada/ for bottle

/dadi/ for dog

/tatu/ for television

Gone by Age

2 1/2 yrs.

2 1/2 yrs.

2 1/2 yrs.



Dimunization (Dim) - When a child adds an "-ee" and sometimes a consonant + "-ee" to a target word.

Examples

/cup-ee/ for cup 

/book-ee/ for book

/doll-ee/ for doll

Gone by Age

Not Available



Epenthesis - When a child says an unstressed vowel usually "uh" between two consonants.

Examples

/suh-poon/ for spoon

/cup-uh/ for cup

/puh-late/ for plate

Gone by Age

 Not Available



Final-Consonant Deletion (FCD) - When a child leaves a single consonant or consonant cluster off of the end of a word.

This can happen on words that end with a vowel (
open-syllable word) or on words that end in consonants (closed-syllable word).

Examples

Open

/ma/ for mom

/da/ for dog 

/wag-ih/ for wagon 

 

Gone by Age

 3 yrs. 3 mos.

 3 yrs. 3 mos.

 3 yrs. 3 mos.

Closed

/boo/ for books

/ha/ for hand

Gone by Age

 3 yrs. 3 mos.

 3 yrs. 3 mos.



Initial Consonant Deletion (ICD) - When a child does not say the first single consonant or consonant cluster at the beginning of a word.

*This is more uncommon but can occur in children with severe phonological disorders.

Examples

/own/ for phone 

/ah-zit/ for closet

/oo/ for shoe

/indo/ for window

/op/ for stop

Gone by Age

Not Available



Cluster Reduction/Deletion (CR) or Cluster Substitution - When a child deletes or substitutes some or all parts of a cluster.

Cluster deletion can be
Total or Partial.

Examples

 

Total

/op/ for stop

/eight/ for straight

/da/ for dark

Gone by Age

All Cluster Reduction and Substitution should be gone by 3 1/2 yrs.

Partial

/top/ for stop

/tate/ for straight

/dak/ for dark

Gone by Age

All Cluster Reduction and Substitution should be gone by 3 1/2 yrs.

Cluster Substitution

/bwed/ for bread 

/pwace/ for place

Gone by Age

All Cluster Reduction and Substitution should be gone by 3 1/2 yrs.




Assimilation Processes - one sound changes to become more like another sound, usually its neighboring sound.


Labial Assimilation - When a sound is changed to a labial sound (b, p, m, w) because of another labial sound in a word.

Labial Assimilation can be
Total or Partial.

Examples

/wap/ for wax 

/peb/ for pen

/mob/ for moss

Gone by Age

3 yrs.

Total

/bub/ for bug

Gone by Age

3 yrs.

Partial

/bup/ for bug

Gone by Age

3 yrs.



Velar Assimilation - When a non-velar sound is changed to a velar (k, g, ng) sound.

Velar Assimilation can be
Total or Partial.

Examples

/kug/ for cup 

/keek/ for keep

/goag/ for goat

Gone by Age

3 yrs.

Total

/kuck/ for cup

Gone by Age

3 yrs.

Partial

/kug/ for cup

Gone by Age

3 yrs.



Nasal Assimilation - When a non-nasal sound is changed to a nasal (m, n, ng) because of the influence of another nasal sound in the word.

Nasal Assimilation can be
Total or Partial.

Examples

/mom/ for mop

/nong/ for long

/non/ for nose

Gone by Age

3 yrs.

Total

/mom/ for mop

Gone by Age

3 yrs.

Partial

/mon/ for mop

Gone by Age

3 yrs.



Alveolar Assimilation - When a non-alveolar sound is changed to an alveolar sound (t, d, n, l, s, z).

Nasal Assimilation can be Total or Partial.

Examples

/tot/ for toss

/suit/ for soup

/dod/ for door

Gone by Age

3 yrs.

Total

/tot/ for top

Gone by Age

3 yrs.

Partial

/tod/ for top

Gone by Age

3 yrs.



Prevocalic Voicing - When a voiceless sound that comes before a vowel is changed to a voiced sound.

Examples

/den/ for ten 

/zuit/ for suit

/vight/ for fight

/bie/ for pie

Gone by Age

6 yrs.



Postvocalic Devoicing - When a voiced stop, fricative, or affricate, that follows a vowel is changed to a  voiceless sound (devoiced).

Examples

/pick/ for pig 

/tuck/ for tug

/sat/ for sad

/bis/ for bees

Gone by Age

3 yrs.


Adapted from:
Pena-Brooks, Adriana, & Hegde, M.N. (2000). Assessment and treatment of articulation and phonological disorders in children. Austin, TX, U.S.A.: PRO-ED, Inc. 


Get a Free Set of Printable Flashcards for the H Sound


All of these patterns should be gone by age 5.

If your child uses one of these phonological processes and they don't have any other speech problems, I would wait until they are just past the age that the pattern should be gone before talking with an SLP.

Why you ask? Because an SLP may not be able to qualify your child for therapy services until he/she is considered to be delayed for his/her age. 

However, if your child has or had additional speech errors, developmental delays, or a family history of speech problems...

...it might not hurt to talk with an SLP sooner.

What Does It Affect?


If your child uses phonological processes it can affect their:

  • spelling

  • writing

  • reading

  • phonological awareness

  • communication with others

What Does an SLP Do to Help?


Speech-Language Pathologists use different techniques while working with children who use phonological processes.

Along with normal drill during therapy, another technique is called auditory bombardment.

This is a technical phrase for "having a child listen to many words with the target sound in the same place."

  • Example: If the child was changing a /k/ sound to a /t/ sound

    (fronting), the clinician would talk into a small amplification device while the child was wearing headphones that were hooked to the device and say:

    cat  car   can   cane   cow   key   coat   cap
    kite   cup   comb   king   cave   cage   kiss   cast

As an SLP I would read over these words at least 2-3 times at the beginning and end of each therapy session.

At home you can do it more than this if you choose but I wouldn't recommend it for longer than 5 minutes because...

...if it gets too boring your child will never want to do it.

I would also suggest having simple pictures to go with each word. 

They can be real photos or cartoons. If your child is in therapy, ask the SLP for a copy of pictures with words your child is working on.

If your child is not in therapy, our site offers free word lists that target specific sounds. 


Use Multi-Syllabic Word Party, An Interactive App for Strengthening Phonological Awareness Skills


SEE ALSO: 21 Free Apps for Speech Therapy

What Can I Do About It?


The best thing you can do if you hear your child use phonological processes is model the correct speech sounds for them.

Repeat the sounds they said incorrectly and emphasize the correct pronunciation. 

  • Example:

    Child says: "Look a doddy" (Look a doggy)

    Parent says: "Where's the dog?", "He looks like a nice dog", "Come here, doggy"

2-3 repetitions is sufficient making sure to emphasize the /g/ sound each time the word "dog" is said.

You can do auditory bombardment even if you don't have an amplification device and if you know what sounds to target.

You can buy an amplification device if you want to use one.

Giving your child multiple chances to hear how letters and word blends sound is very important in helping them overcome phonological processes. 

You might also be interested in our Top 10 Tips to improve communication at home.


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