Articulation (speech sounds) and Phonology

Children's Service Areas

Treating stuttering (dysfluency), kids playing together

Articulation refers to the actions of the lips and tongue in producing the sounds of speech. Some children experience difficulty acquiring these actions correctly. The result is speech that is unclear or in some cases unintelligible. This is known as an articulation delay or disorder. It is estimated that 50-80% of all communication disorders are articulatory. By the time a child is 3 years old, his/her speech should be easily understandable. The presence of some articulation errors is normal. However, by age 7, a child should be able to make all the speech sounds correctly. There is some variance in the age of acquisition of speech sounds; however, the following list reflects typical progress:

Acquisition of speech sounds by age

  • 1 ½ – 2 years:   b, p, m, w, h
  • 2 years:   n, t, d, f, y
  • 2-3 years:   k, g, ng
  • 3-4 years:   s, z, v
  • 3-5 years:   l
  • 3 ½ – 6 years:   sh, ch, j
  • 4-6 years:   r, th, consonant blends

If you have any concerns about your child’s articulation or if your child is 3 years or older and difficult to understand, contact us for intervention. In some cases, the correction of these errors may be quite quick if the child is physically ready to make the correct sounds.


In some cases a child may actually be using speech patterns that are in error. For example:

  • Final Consonant Deletion – leaving off the ends of words
  • Fronting – substituting a /t/ or /d/ sound for /k/ and /g/ sounds by using the front of the tongue not the back
  • Stopping – substituting a consonant that stops (e.g., t, d, k, g) for consonants that continue (e.g., s, f, sh)
  • Cluster reduction – simplifying a consonant blend to only one consonant (e.g., wim for swim)

The existence of these error patterns (or phonological processes) often results in speech that is very difficult to understand. If your child is experiencing the frustration of unintelligible speech, contact us for assessment and intervention.