Multilingualism and speech sound disorders

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperEntry for encyclopedia/dictionary


The majority of the world is multilingual and most children learn to speak the languages within their communities with adultlike competence. While there are a range of definitions of multilingualism, a broad definition from the International Expert Panel on Multilingual Children’s Speech is that multilingual people can speak, sign, and/or understand two or more languages with at least a basic level of proficiency. Multilingual children are at the same level of risk for having speech sound disorders as monolingual children; however, for multilingual children, identification of speech sound disorders can be more complex given the multiple linguistic influences on speech production. According to the International Expert Panel on Multilingual Children’s Speech (2012), “Children with speech sound disorders can have any combination of difficulties with perception, articulation/motor production, and/or phonological representation of speech segments (consonants and vowels), phonotactics (syllable and word shapes), and prosody (lexical and grammatical tones, rhythm, stress, and intonation) that may impact speech intelligibility and acceptability” (p. 1). Assessment and intervention should be based on the best available research evidence, as well as the preferences of the children and their families, and practice-based evidence from the professionals they work with. Key tasks for Speech–Language pathologists include differential diagnosis between children with speech sound disorders and speech differences (due to crosslinguistic transfer between languages/dialects) and creation of speech intervention techniques to support multilingualism and maintenance of home languages. The provision of equitable services for multilingual children with speech sound disorders may require additional funding, time, and resources compared to working with monolingual children who speak the dominant language of the community. This entry provides an overview of the complex issues surrounding assessment, diagnosis, and intervention for speech sound disorders in multilingual children, as well as addressing the importance of language maintenance.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe SAGE encyclopedia of human communication sciences and disorders
EditorsJack S. Damico, Martin J. Ball
Place of PublicationThousand Oaks, CA.
PublisherSAGE Publications Ltd
Number of pages4
ISBN (Electronic)9781483380834
ISBN (Print)9781483380810
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Grant Number

  • DP180102848


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