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Articulation and Phonological Disorders

Both articulation and phonology refer to the physiological production of speech sounds, ie. the individual sounds in speech, not the meaning and content of speech. When a child presents with either an articulation disorder or a phonological disorder, they are often difficult to understand.


Articulation is a general term which refers to the production of individual sounds. The production of sounds involves the coordinated movements of the lips, tongue, teeth and palate, and respiratory system. This includes a variety of nerves and muscles used for speech production.

All speech sounds (phonemes) are acquired in a predictable developmental order.

An articulation disorder refers to a child who has difficulty producing and forming particular speech sounds correctly, for example, lisping or not being able to produce a particular sound such as "r". These disorders are generally very specific in nature and require therapy from a trained Speech Pathologist.

Often children are labeled as having an articulation disorder when, in actual fact, they have a phonological disorder (refer below) or even dyspraxia. This can often effect the treatment or outcomes of a child's therapy.

Phonology/Phonological Disorders

Phonology refers to the pattern in which sounds are strung together to produce words. This means that a child can produce a sound correctly but may use it in the incorrect position in a word, for example, a child always uses a "d" sound for the "g" sound or "doe" for "go". Phonological processes generally simplify sounds or sound sequences such as syllables and words.

Phonological disorders may have a far greater impact on a child's intelligibility than pure articulation disorders as the child may confuse several phonological rules.

Phonological disorders and phonemic awareness disorders (the understanding of sounds and sound rules in words) have been linked to ongoing language and literacy difficulties. It is therefore important to correctly assess a child's speech difficulties so that the correct intervention can be arranged.