What Was That Sound?

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What Was That Sound?


By Lauren Turk, MS, CCC-SLP

I was just in an elevator in my building when I heard a 6 year-old boy say to his mom, “Div me my hat bat.” What he was saying was, “Give me my hat back.”  The little boy made what speech-language pathologists refer to as an articulation error. He was not able to say the g sound in give or the k sound in the word back.  He substituted the g and k sound for d and t. This particular type of speech error is referred to as a phonological process.  There are several phonological processes and the one I specifically mentioned is called fronting. It is referred to as fronting because the k and g back sounds (made with the back of the tongue) are replaced by front sounds at the anterior (front) portion of the articultors (make the sounds d or t and notice where your tongue is now) your tongue tip will be at the alveolar ridge or the hard ridge behind your top teeth.

What to do next

So maybe you are reading this and thinking that you know a child or perhaps even your own child has difficulty producing a particular sound.  The question is, what do you do?  Do you wait and see if he or she grows out of it? Do you find a speech-language pathologist to perform a speech evaluation and if necessary begin working on these articulation errors?

The answer

If your child is 3 and above and he or she is unintelligible, meaning he or she is not understood by others, you should seek a speech evaluation.  Children often correct phonological errors as they get older.  Depending on the child, therapy can begin before 5 to target a particular sound, but once the child is 5 year-old if errors persist, and you haven't sought out a speech evaluation, it would be advisable to do so at this point.     If the evaluation reveals that therapy is necessary, the sooner the child starts receiving treatment the better!

If therapy is necessary, it is important for parents to be involved in your child’s therapy.  This will help your son or daughter progress more readily when they know that mom, dad, or a caregiver is there to support them.  If you work on the sounds at home, you are likely to help your child generalize the sounds more easily, solidifying the progress made during therapy sessions.  Above all, be patient, as young children can often feel the stress put upon them by adults and you want to make therapy as positive an experience as possible!

Just to recap, we hear children make articulation errors in their speech all the time. For a certain period of time, this is acceptable, but after age 5, for most sounds we expect children to begin sounding like their adult models.  At the end of this entry, I will include some phonological processes (typical in children until age 5) as a glossary at the bottom of this entry.

If you think your child may need therapy, check out TherapyfindR for a list of therapists.





Like this article?  Check out some of our other articles listed below:

Does My Child Need Speech Therapy?

Dyslexia and Reading Difficulties 

10 Tips For Communicating With Preschoolers


Phonological processes – Here are a some examples:


Boat pronounced as “boak

Tap pronounced as "kap"

Soup pronounced as “houp



Frog pronounced as “frod

Candy pronounced as “tandy

Shoe pronounced as "su"



Puzzle pronounced as “pudl

Soap pronounced as "toap"


Gliding - r or l replaced by w

Yellow pronounced as “yewo

Run pronounced as "wun"

Play pronounced as "pay"


Initial Consonant Deletion

Cup pronounced as “up

Man pronounced as “an

Pool pronounced as “ool


Final Consonant Deletion

Doll pronounced as “da

Pool pronounced as “pu


Cluster reduction

Plane pronounced as “pane

Truck pronounced as “tuk

Sleep pronounced as “seep



Dad pronounced as “dada

Me pronounced as “mimi



Blue pronounced as “balue

Color pronounced as “klulu



Dog pronounced as “dada"

Water pronounced as "wawa"


Shipley, K. G, and McAfee, J. G. (2004). Assessment in Speech-Language Pathology A Resource Manual (3rd Ed.). Clifton Park, NY: Delmar Learning. 

27 February 2014 20:28
by Lauren Turk, MS, CCC-SLP