Phonological Processes

By Deanna Kelly


All children make errors while developing their speech and language skills. These errors or patterns are called “phonological processes”, and children use them to simplify adult speech. Between the ages of 3-5 children typically begin to eliminate these processes.

Speech-Language Therapy is needed when children do not eliminate these processes and continue to make these errors while adding more words to their vocabulary. Learning new words and continuing to make these errors make it difficult for parents, teachers, and peers to understand the child.

Below is a chart explaining the phonological processes with an example and description.

Phonological Process Example Description
Pre-vocalic voicing car = gar A voiceless sound preceding a vowel is replaced by a voiced sound.
Word final devoicing red = ret A final voiced consonant is replaced by a voiceless consonant
Final consonant deletion boat = bo A final consonant is omitted (deleted) from a word.
Velar fronting car = tar A back sound is replaced by a front sound.
Palatal fronting ship = sip sh or zh are replaced b y s or z respectively
Consonant harmony cup = pup The pronunciation of a word is influenced by one of the sounds it ‘should’ contain.
Weak syllable deletion telephone = teffone Weak (unstressed) syllables are deleted from words of more than one syllable.
Cluster reduction try = ty A cluster element is deleted or replaced.
Gliding of liquids ladder = wadder Liquids are replaced by glides.
Stopping ship = tip A stop consonant replaces a fricative or affricate.

Speech-Language Therapy used to correct phonological processes typically involves targeting the specific sound error. The therapist will teach correct placement for the sound, and drill the child at word level, phrase level, and eventually at the sentence level. The goal of therapy intervention is to have the child producing the correct target sound during conversational speech.