Patterns of consonant deletion in typically developing children aged 3 to 7 years

Deborah G. H. James, J. van Doorn, Sharynne McLeod, A. Easterman

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Abstract

Children with and without speech, language and/or literacy impairment, delete consonants when they name pictures to elicit single words. Consonant deletion seems to be more frequent in long words (words of three or more syllables) than in short words (words of one or two syllables). However, it may be missed in long words because they are not routinely assessed and, even if they are, there is little normative data about them. The study aims were (1) to determine if a relationship exists between consonant deletion and the number of syllables in words, (2) delimit variation in the numbers of children using it, its frequency of occurrence and the words it affects and (3) to discuss the application of these data to clinical practice. The participants were 283 typically developing children, aged 3;0 to 7;11 years, speaking Australian English with proven normal language, cognition and hearing. They named pictures, yielding 166 selected words that were varied for syllable number, stress and shape and repeatedly sampled all consonants and vowels of Australian English. Almost all participants (95%) used consonant deletion. Whilst a relationship existed between consonant deletion frequency and the number of syllables in words, the syllable effect was interpreted as a proxy of an interaction of segmental and prosodic features that included two or more syllables, sonorant sounds, non-final weak syllables, within-word consonant sequences and/or anterior-posterior articulatory movements. Clinically, two or three deletions of consonants across the affected words may indicate typical behaviour for children up to the age of 7;11 years but variations outside these tolerances may mark impairment. These results are further evidence to include long words in routine speech assessment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-192
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Speech-Language Pathology
Volume10
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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