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When children get things slightly wrong

In learning to talk there is quite a lot to learn. Children get things slightly wrong, The commoner sorts of errors are often called ‘phonological processors’. These mostly replace sounds, Most of these replacements work mainly in one direction. The replacement is typically not replaced by what it replaces. One not so common example of this occurs in the word spoon. A child who can say pie and sea, says spoon as FOON. The S is said with the tongue tip almost closing the airstream and the P with the lips completely closing it. When the child says spoon as FOON, there is an incomplete closure by the bottom lip – merging the two sounds together by what is known as ‘coalescence’. F merges S and P.. In one sense, this is making the word easier to say. But that can’t be the whole story. By another possible coalescence, the tongue tip action of the S is merged with the complete closure by the P. T is said with the tongue tip. And the closure is complete. This gives giving a pronunciation as TOON. But if any child does this, it is very rare. And TOON is even easier to say than FOON. So rather than seeing FOON as a way of making the word easier to say, I think it is more revealing, more helpful to the child, to see this as a case of merging the two more distinctive ‘values’. In this case these are action by the lips and incomplete closure. And the merger itself is a reanalysis in the mind of the child. By this reanalysis, the two sounds, S and P, are not allowed at the beginning of a one syllable word. By that approach, there are several components in the treatment. But each one is specific and narrowly focused. And the treatment is shortened as a result.

Published on July 1, 2022