This is a Pediatric Speech and Language Dictionary / Glossary. It is a comprehensive list of speech and language terms that have helpful links to supporting content. It’s being developed as a reference source for pediatric speech and language pathologists and students. It’s will also be a great tool for parents of special needs kids who come across a term on this website that they do not completely understand.

This Pediatric Speech and Language Dictionary is a work in progress and always will be. We will continue adding to the reference list as we keep building our content with terms that need further explanation. Please feel free to contribute by adding terms and links to the comment box on the bottom of each page. We will try to add it within 24 hours.

Speech and Language Dictionary Terms A to Z

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Term Definition
Abducens Nerve The sixth cranial nerve (CN VI). This motor nerve travels from the brain to the lateral rectus muscle of the eye, where it controls abduction (lateral movement of the pupil) of the eye.
See also Cranial Nerves
Abusive Vocal Behavior Using the vocal folds in a damaging way, such as speaking very loudly or with an inappropriate pitch (too high or too low). Repeated misuse can lead to permanent damage to the vocal folds.

See also Vocal Abuse; Vocal Misuse.

Abutting Consonants Two consonants of different sounds joined together. The first one stops a syllable and the other one releases the next syllable. For example, the /st/ in mystery.

See also Consonant.

Acoustic Nerve The eighth cranial nerve (CN VIII). This sensory nerve stems from two areas in the inner ear: the cochlea, from which it sends the sensation of hearing sounds to the brain; and the vestibular system, from which it sends information about the body’s equilibrium (sense of balance).

Also called the Vestibulocochlear, Auditory Vestibular, or Auditory Nerve.

See also Cranial Nerves.

Acquired Disorder The result of trauma (such as car accidents) or disease (such as Lou Gehrig’s) in the neurological system. Sensitive brain cells and tissues become bruised or otherwise damaged, which can alter a person’s ability to process speech and language. A variety of acquired disorders exist, including aphasia and dysphagia. Acquired disorders are contrasted with congenital or inherited disorders.

See also Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI); Congenital Disorder; specific disorders.

Additions An articulation error that occurs when the speaker adds an extra sound to the word. For example, adding the “uh” sound in buhlack for black.

See also Articulation Disorder.

Adventitious Deafness Partial or total hearing loss that results from disease or damage to the auditory system of a person who was born with normal hearing.

Also called Adventitious Hearing Loss.
See also Deafness; Congenital Deafness.

Affixation The process of adding a bound morpheme to a root word in order to change its grammatical meaning. An affix usually occurs before (prefix), or after (suffix) the root word. For example, un- in unfit, -ly in manly, and -less in careless.

See also Morpheme.

Affricate Consonants A type of consonant sound that begins with a stop sound (e.g., /t/), during which the airflow is stopped by the tongue, air pressure builds in the mouth, and air is released into a fricative sound (e.g., /∫/ or /sh/), during which the airflow is forced through the teeth to create friction or turbulence in the air.
There are two affricates in English:
– /ch/ sound, noted as /t∫/, as in cheese and which.
– /J/ sound, noted as /dȝ/, as in joy and cage.

Link 1: Calleteach Sounds of English Affricates/
Link 2: Pronuncian.com Lessons – Lesson 45
Link 3: University of Iowa – Sounds of American English
Link 4: Wikipedia – Affricate Consonants
Affrication A phonological process that occurs when the child substitutes a fricative sound (/f, v, Ɵ, ð, s, z, ʃ, ȝ, h/) with an affricate (/ch/ or /tʃ/, /J/ or /dȝ/).
For example, the word shut (ʃt) is spoken as chut (tʃt).Age of elimination: 3 yrs.See also Phonological Processes.
Agrammatism A symptom of expressive, or Broca’s, aphasia in which the speaker omits grammatical structures and function words, such as articles, auxiliary verbs, and prepositions. As a result, utterances are incomplete and sound like telegraphic speech.

Example 1: Boy, book…read book.
Example 2: Water drink, uh, want.

Link 1: Wikipedia – Agrammatism

See also Expressive Aphasia, Broca’s Aphasia, Telegraphic Speech.

Link 1: The ASHA Leader – Agrammatism: A cross-linguistic clinical perspective
Link 2: Wikipedia – Agrammatism
Alveolar Assimilation A type of consonant assimilation (or consonant harmony) in which a non-alveolar sound is replaced with an alveolar sound that is similar to another alveolar sound in the word. Alveolar refers to the alveolar ridge, which is the ridged or bumpy section of the hard palate in the mouth located just behind the top two front teeth.
For example, the word soup has the consonants /s/ (alveolar) and /p/ (non-alveolar). Alveolar assimilation occurs when the /p/ is changed to an alveolar sound to assimilate, or conform to, the voiceless /s/. The result would sound like /sout/, with the /t/ (alveolar) replacing the /p/ (non-alveolar).See also Assimilation, Phonological Processes, Alveolar Ridge.
Alvelolar Margin The ridged or bumpy section of the hard palate in the mouth located just behind the top two front teeth. A few sounds in English are produced by touching the tip of the tongue to this section of the mouth while manipulating air flow. The alveolar sounds include: /t/, /d/, /l/, /n/, /s/, and /z/.

Also known as the Alveolar Ridge.

See also Alveolar Sounds.

Alvelolar Ridge The ridged or bumpy section of the hard palate in the mouth located just behind the top two front teeth. A few sounds in English are produced by touching the tip of the tongue to this section of the mouth while manipulating air flow. The alveolar sounds include: /t/, /d/, /l/, /n/, /s/, and /z/.

Also known as the Alveolar Margin.

Link 1: Britannica.com – Alveolar-Ridge Definition and Images
Link 2: Wikipedia – Alvelolar Ridge
Alvelolar Sounds Consonant sounds that are produced by placing the tip of the tongue against the alveolar ridge, or the bumpy section of the hard palate located behind the top two front teeth.

Alveolar sounds include:
/t/, /d/
/l/, /n/
/s/, /z/

See also Alveolar Ridge.

American Sign Language Abbreviated ASL, this method of communication is considered to be a complete, complex language used by people who are hard of hearing or deaf. The language is produced by making hand and arm gestures, facial expressions, and body postures in order to express thoughts, questions, emotions, and comments. Some people who are deaf may use other forms of communication, or a combination of methods referred to as total communication, but ASL is the most common form of language in the deaf community.

See also Hearing Loss, Deafness, Total Communication.

Link 1: Wikipedia – American Sign Language
Link 2: ASLPro.com Easy to use reference and learning tool with video examples
Link 3: SignSaavy.com Learning tool with video examples
Link 4: American Sign Langauge – National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Amplification Devices There are a variety of technological devices available that can boost a person’s hearing levels by amplifying his or her residual hearing. A person who is totally deaf or has a profound hearing loss with little residual hearing may not benefit from the use of amplification devices.

There are many types of devices, including some that are used by individuals and/or in group settings, like classrooms.
1. Hearing Aid: a device worn by the person, either in or around the ear, or as a separate device, such as a body aid or bone vibrator aid.
2. FM System: this frequency modulation system is an auditory trainer with a transmitter and receiver that uses a special radio frequency to carry the sound signal. The speaker talks into the transmitter, and the signal is sent back to the receiver, which is connected to the hearing aid(s) in the ear of the person with hearing loss. Likewise, an AM system uses the AM frequency to transmit the sound signal.
3. Audio (or Induction) Loop System: a microphone, amplifier, and hardwire create a magnetic field throughout the room to transmit sound to the person’s hearing aid.
4. Infrared Sound System: sound is converted to an infrared signal that is picked up by the listener’s infrared receiver.
5. Telephone Amplifier: the telephone signal is amplified, particularly for people with hearing loss who do not use hearing aids.
6. Personal Amplification System: a Bluetooth streamer, mini remote microphones, or an app that may be used in conjunction with hearing aids or cochlear implants.

In contrast to amplification devices, other technology is available that replaces, rather than amplifies, the sound signal. See, for example, Cochlear Implants.

See also Hearing Loss, Deafness, Residual Hearing, Hearing Aids, Cochlear Implants.

Anomic Aphasia The least severe form of aphasia. The patient has difficulty recalling nouns, such as the names of common objects, people, places, or events. Patients describe the sensation as “having a word on the tip of the tongue” but being unable to retrieve the word from memory. This type of aphasia is also described as a problem with word-finding or word-retrieval.

Patients with anomic aphasia do not typically have difficulty understanding language, whether by listening or reading, but speaking and writing are impaired.

See also Aphasia, Stroke.

Anxiety A feeling of excessive worry and fear. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), there are a variety of anxiety disorders, such as social anxiety and generalized anxiety disorders.

In speech and language, especially in stuttering and other communication disorders, anxiety is the fear and apprehension of speaking in public.

See also Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

Aphasia A neurogenic language disorder that results from brain damage due to a stroke (most commonly), traumatic brain injury, virus, infection, tumor, or seizures. Aphasia can range from mild to severe and is more common among adults than children.

Aphasia occurs when brain damage affects the speech and language areas of the brain, typically located in the left hemisphere. Language is affected across many domains, including speaking, listening, reading, and writing. There may be other symptoms or disorders that result from the damage, but the patient’s cognitive skills, including memory and executive functioning, may not be impaired.

There are various types of aphasia, depending on the location and severity of brain damage.

Fluent vs. Nonfluent: Aphasia can be either fluent or nonfluent. In fluent aphasia (also called receptive aphasia), the patient’s speech production remains uninterrupted, so words flow easily when spoken. However, receptive language is impaired, so the patient has poor comprehension of language and, although fluent, his or her speech may be nonsensical or meaningless.

In nonfluent aphasia (also called expressive aphasia), speech production is impaired, so words are spoken with much difficulty and effort. However, the patient’s understanding of language remains intact. The patient understands questions and is able to read, but he or she has difficulty expressing his or her own thoughts through speech or writing.

More specific types of aphasia are defined below.

  • Anomic Aphasia: word-finding difficulty, particularly with recalling nouns, such as the names of common objects or people.
  • Auditory Aphasia: See Wernicke’s aphasia.
  • Isolation Aphasia: See transcortical aphasia.
  • Broca’s Aphasia: A nonfluent (expressive) aphasia in which the patient has difficulty producing written or spoken language, although language comprehension remains intact. See also Broca’s area, the brain region in which speech planning is executed. Also called verbal or expressive aphasia.
  • Childhood Aphasia: See developmental aphasia.
  • Conduction Aphasia: A rare fluent aphasia with main difficulty in repetition of phrases despite the patient’s ability to express him- or herself verbally. Also called associative aphasia.
  • Developmental Aphasia: Also called childhood aphasia, this is a language disorder that develops as a result of some central nervous system dysfunction in childhood, resulting in impaired language skills.
  • Receptive-Expressive Aphasia: Production and comprehension of language are impaired.
  • Global Aphasia: The most severe type of aphasia, typically observed immediately after stroke in which the left hemisphere is significantly damaged. Patients have great difficulty understanding and forming words and sentences. May be called receptive-expressive aphasia.
  • Primary Progressive Aphasia: A rare form of aphasia in which a patient slowly loses the ability to understand and speak over a long period of time. Treatment is usually ineffective.
  • Transcortical Aphasia: A group of three types of aphasia in which repetition skills remain intact, despite impairment in other language areas.
  • Transcortical Sensory: A fluent aphasia, similar to Wernicke’s aphasia, but the patient is able to easily repeat words and phrases despite poor language comprehension.
  • Transcortical Motor: A nonfluent aphasia, similar to Broca’s aphasia, but the patient is able to easily repeat words and phrases despite difficulty with verbal expression.
  • Mixed Transcortical: A combination of both fluent and nonfluent aphasia in which both receptive and expressive language skills are impaired, but the patient has strong repetition skills.
  • Wernicke’s Aphasia: A fluent (receptive) aphasia in which the patient has difficulty understanding language, but speaks with ease. Language sounds normal in rhythm and grammar but output is often nonsensical with missing or incorrect words. See also Wernicke’s area, the brain region that controls language comprehension. Also called sensory, receptive, or auditory aphasia.

See also Fluent Aphasia, Nonfluent Aphasia, Stroke, specific types of aphasia.

Link 1: Wikipedia – Expressive Aphasia
Link 2: Wikipedia – Receptive Aphasia
Apraxia This term is used to describe a group of neurological conditions in which the patient has difficulty using various groups of muscles for normal movements. There are different types of apraxia based on the location of muscle impairment:

  • Apraxia of Speech (AOS): Difficulty coordinating speech muscle movements, including those of the lips, tongue, cheeks, and velum. Also called verbal apraxia. Two subtypes include:
    • Acquired AOS:
    • Developmental or Childhood AOS:
  • Limb-Kinetic Apraxia: Difficulty making fine motor movements with arm or leg muscles.
  • Orofacial Apraxia: Difficulty making voluntary movements of the facial muscles, such as licking lips or winking. Also called buccofacial apraxia.

Also called dyspraxia, which indicates a milder form of impairment.

See also Apraxia of Speech, specific types of apraxia.

Apraxia of Speech Children with apraxia (Also Childhood Apraxia of Speech) find it difficult to produce the sounds that they want to make because they cannot correctly plan the movement of the muscles that control the articulators (lips, tongue, teeth, jaw and velum). In other words, the brain of a child with apraxia does not send the proper instructions to the muscles that adjust both the positioning of the jaw, lips and tongue and the speed and rhythm of speech.

Link 1: Full Details – Causes, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prognosis, Products for SLPs and Success Stories
Link 2: Apraxia Kids Website
Link 3: Wikipedia – Apraxia
Aprosody The loss of the melody of speech (prosody). The melody of speech is controlled by modifications in pitch, quality and duration of individual speech sounds. Said differently prosody is the lack of rhythm, stress and intonation of speech.

See also hypoprosody

Link 1: Wikipedia – Aprosody
Arresting Consonants See Consonants
Articulators Articulators or Speech Organs produce the sounds needed for language. The articulators include the lips, teeth, tongue, alveolar ridge, hard palate, soft palate (velum), uvula and glottis.

Link 1: The Sounds of English – Articulators
Link 2: Wikipedia – Articulators
Articulation Disorder An articulation disorder occurs when speech sounds are spoken in error due to incorrect placement, timing, pressure, speed, and/or coordination of the articulators (lips, tongue, teeth, jaw, and velum). Note that some errors are developmentally appropriate depending on the child’s age, and thus do not indicate an articulation disorder. Common patterns of errors heard in children with articulation disorders include:

  • Additions – the addition of a sound(s) that is not part of a word. For example Ath-a-lete for Athlete
  • Omissions – the deletion of a phoneme that is not replaced by another. For example saying At for Hat.
  • Distortions – a phoneme that does not sound quite right. For example Shlow down for Slow down.
  • Substitutions – when one sound is replaced with another sound. For example Wabbit for Rabbit.
Link 1: Full Details – Causes, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prognosis, Products for SLPs and Success Stories.
Link 2: Wikipedia – Articulation Disorders
Aspirate Consonants See Consonants
Assimilation A phonological process in which a child produces the target sound with properties of another sound in the word. There are various types of assimilation based on the properties of the sound changes:

Consonant assimilation (including Alveolar, Labial, Nasal, and Velar)
Prevocalic voicing
Postvocalic voicing (or Final consonant devoicing)
Coalescence
Reduplication

See also Phonological Processes, specific types.

Audio Loop System An amplification device that uses a microphone, amplifier, and hardwire to create a magnetic field throughout the room in order to transmit sound to a person’s hearing aid.

Also called Induction Loop System.

See also Amplification Devices, Hearing Loss.

Auditory Aphasia See Wernicke’s Aphasia, Aphasia.
Auditory Perception See Perception
Auditory-Verbal Therapy This method of therapy focuses on teaching children who have hearing loss to use spoken language to communicate. Residual hearing is the ability to hear some sounds even after a hearing loss has been identified. A child may use amplification devices, such as hearing aids, to boost the residual hearing so the child can hear some sounds in order to communicate by listening and speaking. Thus, even though a child may have hearing loss, he or she can be taught to listen and speak along with peers who have normal hearing. This method is often used in order to include a child with hearing loss in the mainstream classroom.

See also Residual Hearing, Deafness, Hearing Loss, Amplification Devices, Mainstreaming

Automatic Language See Language

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