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Children want to say the names of interesting things like dinosaurs like diplodocus, like football teams, like Tottenham Hotspurs, like celebrities, like Jennifer Lopez. And some of these things are hard to say.

Atoms and molecules

Taken together, speech and language constitute the most complex system known to science. And yet they are effortlessly acquired by the overwhelming majority of children with no necessary help in about ten years. >>


English allows perhaps five thousand possible syllables …. something which learners of English have to learn. >>


A possible word is necessarily a possible syllable, though not the other way round. So TEA, as the first syllable of teacher, is not just a possible word, but a real one. But TI as the first syllable of Timothy is only a syllable and not a possible word. >>

Speech sounds

In English there are often said to be 44 speech sounds or ‘phonemes’…. the number of phonemes in the language is one key point on the learner’s agenda. >>


Inside the sounds of speech, the ‘phonemes’, there are the properties known as ‘features’ which distinguish T from D and S, the vowel in hid from the vowels in heed and head, and all the other comparable contrasts in the language. >>


For any given language, its phonotactics defines which sounds can apear in which positions and combinations, in which syllables, in which sorts of words, playing which roles. >>

Metricality, stress

Languages like English have rhythms inside what we think of as words as well as between words. The rhythm inside words is based on what are known as ‘feet’, in English, mostly with a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable, as in canon, and the other way round in canoe. >>

An inventory of sounds

On most counts, there are 44 phonemes in English (with slight variations between dialects, including different versions of ‘Standard English’.)  >>

Effects of complexity

There are nowhere near as many actual words as there are possible words. >>


Language pairs sound and meaning. Metalinguistics is about the recognition of this relation. And metalinguistic limitations are a common co-morbidity of any sort of speech and language disorder >>