Phonological Disorder and Types of Phonological Processes

Phonological Disorder and Types of Phonological Processes: When learning to speak, typically developing children use phonological processes, or patterns of sound errors, to simplify their speech. A phonological disorder develops when phonological processes continue past the point at which the majority of ordinarily developing children stop using them, or when the processes are significantly different from what is typical. 

In the realm of linguistics, phonological processes play a pivotal role in shaping how we produce and perceive speech sounds. Understanding these processes is essential for grasping the intricacies of language development and communication. In this comprehensive article, we will explore various types of phonological processes, shedding light on their mechanisms and significance in the broader context of linguistics. So, let’s embark on a journey to uncover the mysteries behind speech sounds and the phonological processes that govern them.

Phonological Disorders

Phonological disorders, also known as speech sound disorders, are a type of communication disorder that affects a person’s ability to produce speech sounds correctly. These disorders are more common in children but can also be present in adults. The primary difficulty lies in the individual’s ability to organize and coordinate the sounds required for speech production. 

There are two main types of phonological disorders: 

  • Articulation Disorders: This type of disorder involves difficulties in forming individual speech sounds. For example, a child might have trouble pronouncing certain sounds, such as “s,” “r,” “l,” or “th.” 
  • Phonological Process Disorders: In this type of disorder, a child has difficulty applying the appropriate phonological rules that govern sound patterns in a language. For instance, a child might simplify certain sounds or sound combinations, like saying “wabbit” instead of “rabbit.” 

Causes of phonological disorders can vary and may include

  • Developmental Causes: Some children may experience delays in speech sound development as part of normal language development. However, if these delays persist beyond a certain age, they may be classified as phonological disorders. 
  • Structural or Physical Issues: Some children may have physical abnormalities or structural issues with their speech organs (e.g., tongue, lips, palate), which can affect their speech sound production. 
  • Hearing Impairment: Hearing plays a crucial role in speech sound development. Children with hearing loss may struggle to produce speech sounds correctly if they can’t hear them accurately. 
  • Neurological Factors: In some cases, phonological disorders may be associated with neurological conditions or developmental disorders. 

Types of Phonological Processes 

Analysis makes it easier to spot patterns like the replacement of voiced for voiceless sounds, the replacement of fricatives with stops, or the replacement of lingua-velar for lingua-alveolar sounds in syllable structure. (e.g., place errors—[k] S /t/, /d/ S [g]). Another example is a child who speaks with the proper intonation and intonation patterns, but who fronts consonants (e.g., /k/ S [t], /g/ S [d]) instead of using accurate articulation. Substituting sounds that should be produced in the rear or posterior of the oral cavity for sounds that should be produced in the front of the mouth cavity (in a way that is consistent with the intended sound), the young child is “fronting” consonants in this instance.

Phonological processes analysis is a technique for detecting patterns in errors. Before delving into the interpretation of such studies, we’d like to go through some of the most common patterns found in young children’s speech. Different authors employed various nomenclature of the majority of phonological processes. Although not thorough, this list includes the majority of the regular patterns noticed in ordinarily developing children and has been extensively used to investigate the sound difficulties of children with developmental delays in photography.

Whole Word & Syllable Patterns

Changes in whole word and syllable patterns have an impact on the target word’s syllable structure. 

  1. Final consonant deletion: Deletion of the final consonant in a word. 
  2. Unstressed syllable deletion (weak syllable deletion): An unstressed syllable is deleted, often at the beginning of a word, sometimes in the middle. 
  3. Reduplication: A syllable or a portion of a syllable is repeated or duplicated, usually becoming CVCV. 
  4. Consonant cluster simplification: A consonant cluster is simplified by a substitution for one member of the cluster. 
  5. Consonant cluster reduction: One or more elements of a consonant cluster are deleted. 
  6. Epenthesis: A segment, often the unstressed vowel [ə], is inserted. 
  7. Metathesis: There is a transposition or reversal of two segments (sounds) in a word. 
  8. Coalescence: Characteristics of features from two adjacent sounds are combined so that one sound replaces two other sounds. 

Assimilatory (Harmony) Patterns

Errors of such kind usually seen to have characteristics like the influence of the first sound on the next sound. As a result, the two parts resemble one another more and may even become identical (thus, the word harmony). Assimilation can take different forms. 

  1. Velar assimilation: A nonvelar sound is assimilated (changed) to a velar sound because of the influence, or dominance, of a velar. 
  2. Nasal assimilation: A non-nasal sound is assimilated and replaced by a nasal because of the influence, or dominance, of a nasal consonant. 
  3. Labial assimilation: A nonlabial sound is assimilated to a labial consonant because of the influence of a labial consonant. 

Segment Change (Substitution) Patterns

In these patterns, one sound is swapped out for another, with the replacement sound reflecting changes in the place or style of articulation or another variation from how a sound is typically produced. 

  1. Fronting: Substitutions are produced anteriorly to or forward of the standard production. 
  2. Backing: Sounds are substituted or replaced by segments produced posterior to, or further back in, the oral cavity than the standard production. 
  3. Stopping: Fricatives or affricates are replaced by stops. 
  4. Gliding of liquids: Prevocalic liquids are replaced by glides. 
  5. Affrication: Fricatives are replaced by affricates. 
  6. Vocalization: Liquids or nasals are replaced by vowels 
  7. Denasalization: Nasals are replaced by homorganic stops (place of articulation is similar to target sound). 
  8. Deaffrication: Affricates are replaced by fricatives. 
  9. Glottal replacement: Glottal stops replace sounds usually in either intervocalic or final position. 
  10. Prevocalic voicing: Voiceless consonants (obstruents) in the prevocalic position are voiced. 
  11. Devoicing of final consonants: Voiced obstruents are devoiced in final position. 

Detailed Outline of Phonological Disorders and Types of Phonological Processess

The following table provides a detailed outline of the various types of phonological processes:

Heading 

Sub-Heading 

1. Assimilation  1.1 Regressive Assimilation 
1.2 Progressive Assimilation 
2. Dissimilation  2.1 Contact Dissimilation 
2.2 Remote Dissimilation 
3. Deletion  3.1 Final Consonant Deletion 
3.2 Cluster Reduction 
4. Epenthesis  4.1 Prothesis 
4.2 Epithesis 
5. Metathesis  5.1 Simple Metathesis 
5.2 Vowel Metathesis 
6. Reduplication  6.1 Total Reduplication 
6.2 Partial Reduplication 
7. Vowel Reduction  7.1 High Vowel Reduction 
7.2 Mid Vowel Reduction 
7.3 Low Vowel Reduction 
8. Stress Shift  8.1 Initial Stress Shift 
8.2 Final Stress Shift 
8.3 Penultimate Stress Shift 
9. Tone Assimilation  9.1 Downstep Assimilation 
9.2 Upstep Assimilation 
10. Tone Sandhi  10.1 Register-Tone Sandhi 
10.2 Contour-Tone Sandhi 
11. Coalescence  11.1 Consonant Coalescence 
11.2 Vowel Coalescence 
12. Labialization  12.1 Peripheral Labialization 
12.2 Velarization 
13. Palatalization  13.1 Fronting Palatalization 
13.2 Backing Palatalization 
14. Velarization  14.1 Fronting Velarization 
14.2 Backing Velarization 
15. Glottalization  15.1 Ejective Glottalization 
15.2 Implosive Glottalization 
16. Fortition  16.1 Aspiration Fortition 
16.2 Spirantization Fortition 
17. Lenition  17.1 Fricative Lenition 
17.2 Approximant Lenition 
18. Final Devoicing  18.1 Voiced to Voiceless Devoicing 
18.2 Voiceless to Voiced Devoicing 
19. Initial Voicing  19.1 Voiceless to Voiced Initial Voicing 
19.2 Voiced to Voiceless Initial Voicing 
20. Gliding  20.1 Liquid Gliding 
20.2 Vowel Gliding 
21. Epenthetic Vowels  21.1 Prevocalic Epenthesis 
21.2 Postvocalic Epenthesis 
22. Debuccalization  22.1 Fricative Debuccalization 
22.2 Affricate Debuccalization 
23. Rhotacization  23.1 Rhotic Vowel Rhotacization 
23.2 Non-Rhotic Vowel Rhotacization 
24. Labial Constriction  24.1 Rounded Vowel Labial Constriction 
24.2 Unrounded Vowel Labial Constriction 
25. Glottal Replacement  25.1 Glottal Stop Replacement 
25.2 Glottal Fricative Replacement 

1. Assimilation

Assimilation is a phonological process in which a sound becomes similar or identical to a neighboring sound. It occurs due to the influence of adjacent sounds, making pronunciation more efficient and smooth. 

1.1 Regressive Assimilation

Regressive assimilation, also known as anticipatory assimilation, involves the modification of a sound to match a following sound. For example, when “handbag” is pronounced as “hangbag” due to the influence of the following /g/ sound. 

1.2 Progressive Assimilation 

Progressive assimilation, also known as perseverative assimilation, occurs when a sound changes to resemble a preceding sound. An example is the word “cats” pronounced as “cac” where the /t/ sound is influenced by the preceding /k/ sound. 

2. Dissimilation

Dissimilation is the opposite of assimilation, where a sound becomes less similar to a neighboring sound to avoid redundancy or enhance clarity. 

2.1 Contact Dissimilation 

Contact dissimilation takes place when two neighboring sounds become less similar due to their close proximity. For instance, “elephant” pronounced as “elepant” with the two /e/ sounds becoming less alike. 

2.2 Remote Dissimilation 

Remote dissimilation occurs when two non-adjacent sounds in a word become less similar. An example is “comfortable” pronounced as “cumftable” where the /r/ and /t/ sounds are dissimilated. 

3. Deletion

Deletion involves the omission of a sound or group of sounds within a word. 

3.1 Final Consonant Deletion 

Final consonant deletion happens when the final consonant of a word is omitted. For instance, “cat” pronounced as “ca.” 

3.2 Cluster Reduction 

Cluster reduction occurs when a consonant cluster in a word is simplified by omitting one of the consonants. For example, “splash” pronounced as “spash” by omitting the /l/ sound.

4. Epenthesis

Epenthesis is the insertion of an additional sound, typically a vowel, into a word. 

4.1 Prothesis 

Prothesis involves adding a sound at the beginning of a word. For instance, “blue” pronounced as “eblue.” 

4.2 Epithesis 

Epithesis occurs when an extra sound is inserted in the middle of a word. An example is “athlete” pronounced as “ath-e-lete.”

5. Metathesis

Metathesis refers to the reordering of sounds in a word, leading to a change in the word’s pronunciation. 

5.1 Simple Metathesis 

Simple metathesis involves the switching of two adjacent sounds. For example, “ask” pronounced as “aks.” 

5.2 Vowel Metathesis 

Vowel metathesis occurs when two vowels in a word change places. An example is “comfortable” pronounced as “comfterble.”

6. Reduplication

Reduplication is a phonological process in which a part or the whole of a word is repeated. 

6.1 Total Reduplication 

Total reduplication involves repeating the entire word. For instance, “mama” or “dada.” 

6.2 Partial Reduplication 

Partial reduplication entails repeating only a part of the word. An example is “wawa” for “water.”

8. Vowel Reduction

Vowel reduction refers to the modification of a vowel sound to a more centralized or neutral position. 

7.1 High Vowel Reduction 

High vowel reduction occurs when a high vowel (i.e., /i/ or /u/) becomes more centralized and less tense. For example, “see” pronounced as “si.” 

7.2 Mid Vowel Reduction 

Mid vowel reduction involves the centralization of a mid vowel (i.e., /e/ or /o/). For instance, “day” pronounced as “dey.” 

7.3 Low Vowel Reduction 

Low vowel reduction occurs when a low vowel (i.e., /a/) becomes more centralized. An example is “cot” pronounced as “caht.”

8. Stress Shift

Stress shift involves the change in the position of the primary accent within a word. 

8.1 Initial Stress Shift 

Initial stress shift happens when the primary accent moves to the first syllable of a word. For instance, “reBEL” becomes “REbel.” 

8.2 Final Stress Shift 

Final stress shift occurs when the primary accent moves to the last syllable of a word. In the base word “reBEL,” the stress is on the first syllable ‘re-‘ (re-BEL). However, when the suffix ‘-lious’ is added to form the word “reBELlious,” the stress shifts to the final syllable ‘-lious’ (re-bel-LI-ous). 

8.3 Penultimate Stress Shift 

Penultimate stress shift involves the movement of the primary accent to the second-to-last syllable in a word. For example, “phoTOgraph” becomes “PHOtoGraph.”

9. Tone Assimilation

Tone assimilation is a phonological process in tonal languages where the tone of one syllable is influenced by the tone of an adjacent syllable. 

9.1 Downstep Assimilation 

Downstep assimilation occurs when a high-tone syllable is followed by a low-tone syllable, causing a downward shift in the pitch of the low-tone syllable. 

9.2 Upstep Assimilation 

Upstep assimilation happens when a low-tone syllable is followed by a high-tone syllable, resulting in an upward shift in the pitch of the high-tone syllable.

10. Tone Sandhi

Tone sandhi refers to the alteration of tones in consecutive words due to their interaction in tonal languages. 

10.1 Register-Tone Sandhi 

Register-tone sandhi occurs when the tone of a word changes based on the tone of the preceding or following word. 

10.2 Contour-Tone Sandhi 

Contour-tone sandhi involves changes in the tone of a word based on the tonal contour of the preceding or following word.

11. Coalescence

Coalescence is a phonological process where two distinct sounds merge to form a single new sound. 

11.1 Consonant Coalescence 

Consonant coalescence occurs when two adjacent consonants combine to form a new consonant sound. An example is “handbag” pronounced as “hambag.” 

11.2 Vowel Coalescence 

Vowel coalescence involves the merging of two adjacent vowel sounds into one sound. For instance, “real” pronounced as “ril.”

12. Labialization

Labialization is a phonological process in which a non-labial sound becomes more like a labial sound due to the influence of nearby labial sounds. 

12.1 Peripheral Labialization 

Peripheral labialization occurs when a non-labial sound becomes more like a labial sound due to the influence of a labial sound in the same word. 

12.2 Velarization 

Velarization involves a non-labial sound becoming more like a labial sound due to the influence of a labial sound in a neighboring word.

13. Palatalization

Palatalization is a phonological process in which a sound becomes more like a palatal sound under the influence of a nearby palatal sound. 

13.1 Fronting Palatalization 

Fronting palatalization occurs when a sound moves forward in the mouth and becomes more like a palatal sound due to the influence of a palatal sound within the word. 

13.2 Backing Palatalization 

Backing palatalization involves a sound moving backward in the mouth and becoming more like a palatal sound due to the influence of a palatal sound in a neighboring word.

14. Velarization

Velarization is a phonological process where a sound becomes more like a velar sound under the influence of a nearby velar sound. 

14.1 Fronting Velarization 

Fronting velarization occurs when a sound moves forward in the mouth and becomes more like a velar sound due to the influence of a velar sound within the word. 

14.2 Backing Velarization 

Backing velarization involves a sound moving backward in the mouth and becoming more like a velar sound due to the influence of a velar sound in a neighboring word.

15. Glottalization

Glottalization is a phonological process in which sounds acquire characteristics of glottal consonants. 

15.1 Ejective Glottalization 

Ejective glottalization occurs when a sound becomes glottalized, acquiring the properties of an ejective sound. For example, “stop” pronounced as “stoʔp.” 

15.2 Implosive Glottalization 

Implosive glottalization involves a sound acquiring the properties of an implosive due to glottalization. An example is “black” pronounced as “bl?k.”

16. Fortition

Fortition is a phonological process in which sounds become stronger or more constricted. 

16.1 Aspiration Fortition 

Aspiration fortition occurs when a sound becomes more aspirated, with a stronger burst of air. For instance, “pot” pronounced as “pʰot.” 

16.2 Spirantization Fortition 

Spirantization fortition involves a sound becoming more like a fricative, acquiring a stronger and more prolonged airflow. An example is “tune” pronounced as “ʃun.”

17. Lenition

Lenition is the opposite of fortition, where sounds become weaker or less constricted. 

17.1 Fricative Lenition 

Fricative lenition occurs when a sound becomes more like a fricative, losing its plosive or stop quality. For example, “dime” pronounced as “ða?m.” 

17.2 Approximant Lenition 

Approximant lenition involves a sound becoming more like an approximant, losing its fricative quality. An example is “father” pronounced as “fɑð?r.”

18. Final Devoicing

Final devoicing is a phonological process in which a voiced sound becomes voiceless at the end of a word. 

18.1 Voiced to Voiceless Devoicing 

Voiced to voiceless devoicing occurs when a voiced sound at the end of a word becomes voiceless. For instance, “cab” pronounced as “kæp.” 

18.2 Voiceless to Voiced Devoicing 

Voiceless to voiced devoicing involves a voiceless sound at the end of a word becoming voiced. An example is “bag” pronounced as “bæɡ.”

19. Initial Voicing

Initial voicing is a phonological process in which a voiceless sound becomes voiced at the beginning of a word. 

19.1 Voiceless to Voiced Initial Voicing 

Voiceless to voiced initial voicing occurs when a voiceless sound at the beginning of a word becomes voiced. For example, “pin” pronounced as “bin.” 

19.2 Voiced to Voiceless Initial Voicing 

Voiced to voiceless initial voicing involves a voiced sound at the beginning of a word becoming voiceless. An example is “gate” pronounced as “k?ɛt.”

20. Gliding

Gliding is a phonological process in which a vowel sound becomes more like a glide or a semivowel. 

20.1 Liquid Gliding 

Liquid gliding occurs when a vowel becomes more like a liquid sound (i.e., /r/ or /l/). For instance, “floor” pronounced as “flɔr.” 

20.2 Vowel Gliding 

Vowel gliding involves a vowel sound becoming more like a glide or semivowel. An example is “goat” pronounced as “go?t.”

21. Epenthetic Vowels

Epenthetic vowels are vowels that are inserted between consonants to facilitate pronunciation. 

21.1 Prevocalic Epenthesis 

Prevocalic epenthesis occurs when a vowel is inserted before another vowel sound. For example, “idea” pronounced as “iˈdɪə.” 

21.2 Postvocalic Epenthesis 

Postvocalic epenthesis involves a vowel being inserted after another vowel sound. An example is “coast” pronounced as “ko?st.”

22. Debuccalization

Debuccalization is a phonological process where a consonant becomes more like a glottal sound. 

22.1 Fricative Debuccalization 

Fricative debuccalization occurs when a fricative sound becomes more like a glottal fricative. For instance, “thought” pronounced as “θa?t.” 

22.2 Affricate Debuccalization 

Affricate debuccalization involves an affricate sound becoming more like a glottal stop. An example is “church” pronounced as “tʃɜ?tʃ.”

23. Rhotacization

Rhotacization is a phonological process in which a non-rhotic sound becomes more like a rhotic sound (/r/). 

23.1 Rhotic Vowel Rhotacization 

Rhotic vowel rhotacization occurs when a non-rhotic vowel becomes more like a rhotic vowel due to the influence of an /r/ sound. For example, “car” pronounced as “kɑr.” 

23.2 Non-Rhotic Vowel Rhotacization 

Non-rhotic vowel rhotacization involves a non-rhotic vowel becoming more like a rhotic vowel in the presence of an /r/ sound. An example is “bird” pronounced as “b?rd.”

24. Labial Constriction

Labial constriction is a phonological process where the lips play a significant role in shaping the sound. 

24.1 Rounded Vowel Labial Constriction 

Rounded vowel labial constriction occurs when a rounded vowel (/u/ or /o/) is pronounced with extra lip rounding. For instance, “boot” pronounced as “bʊ?t.” 

24.2 Unrounded Vowel Labial Constriction 

Unrounded vowel labial constriction involves an unrounded vowel (/i/ or /ɛ/) being pronounced with slight lip rounding. An example is “bit” pronounced as “bɪ?t.”

25. Glottal Replacement

Glottal replacement is a phonological process where a sound is replaced by a glottal sound. 

25.1 Glottal Stop Replacement 

Glottal stop replacement occurs when a sound is replaced by a glottal stop (/ʔ/). For example, “button” pronounced as “b?t?n.” 

25.2 Glottal Fricative Replacement 

Glottal fricative replacement involves a sound being replaced by a glottal fricative (/h/). An example is “house” pronounced as “haʊs.” 

It’s essential to identify and address phonological disorders early, as they can impact a child’s communication and social development. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) are professionals who specialize in diagnosing and treating speech sound disorders. They work with individuals to improve their speech sound production through various therapeutic techniques and exercises.

References:

⇒ Articulation and Phonological disorder Speech Sound Disorders in Children 8th Edition – John E Bernthal [Book]
⇒ Assessment in Speech-Language Pathology A Resource Manual 5th Edition, Kenneth G. Shipley, Julie G. McAfee [Book]

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Phonological Disorder and Types of Phonological Processes

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