Phonological Development
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Phonological Development how children develop the ability to use and understand  the sounds of language

Trends in Phonological Development

It is difficult to be precise about later phonological development and the way in which vowels and consonants are acquired varies from child to child. When a sound has been mastered, it maybe used only in the pronunciation of certain words and may be missing or pronounced incorrectly in others. Researchers have identified certain trends in phonological development and these are listed below:

  • Command of all the vowels is achieved before all of the consonants
  • By the age of two and a half the average child has mastered all of the vowels and around two thirds of the consonants
  • At four the child is likely to be having difficulty with only a few consonants
  • The child may be six or seven before confidence in using all vowels and consonants has been acquired
  • Consonants are first used correctly at the beginning of words but consonants at the end of words are more difficult for example ‘p’ and ‘b’’ sounds in ‘push’ and ‘bush’ will be easier to pronounce than ‘rip’ and ‘rib’.
  • In general, sounds that occur frequently in a large number of words will be acquired before sounds that occur less frequently
  • To make words easier to say children simplify their pronunciation in certain ways

Ways of Simplification


Children will often simplify pronunciation by deleting certain sounds:

  • Final consonants maybe dropped eg) the ‘t’ sound in ‘hat’ and ‘cat’
  • Unstressed syllables are often deleted eg) ‘banana’ becomes ‘nana’
  • Consonant clusters are reduced eg) ‘snake’ becomes ‘nake’ , ‘sleep’ becomes ‘seep’


Another form of simplification involves substituting harder sounds with easier ones.

  • R (as in rock or story) becomes w
  • Th (as in there, that or thumb) becomes d, n or f
  • T (as in toe) becomes d
  • P (as in pig) becomes b

Reduplication of sounds is another common phenomenon. This occurs when different sounds in a word are pronounced the same way such as ‘dog’ becoming ‘gog


Berko and Brown (1960) describe how a child referred to a plastic fish as his ‘fis’. When an adult asked ‘is that your fis?’ he replied ‘no, my fis.’ When he was told ‘that is your fish’ he replied ‘yes, my fis.’ Another child confused card/cart and jug/duck in his speech, but when shown pictures of the items, could correctly identify them. This proves that understanding may develop faster than the ability to pronounce things.


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