Speech is a fantastic skill in which we make noises by changing what we do to the air coming out of our lungs. Different sounds are used in different languages and are created by changes in our voicebox, lips, tongue and soft palate.
To make vowel sounds and the consonants w, r, l and y, we change the general shape of our mouth as we make a noise with our voice. Producing the other consonants is more complicated, but to make things easier there are 3 key questions to consider:
Which bits of your mouth are you using? This gives the PLACE of articulation. There are three key areas of our mouths that we use – our lips, the front of our mouth or the back of our mouth
What are you doing to the air? This gives the MANNER of articulation – stopping the air and then letting it go, constricting the air as it comes through or combining different movements.
Is the sound noisy, or quiet? This tells us about the use of VOICE. Most English consonants come in pairs – a noisy sound and a quiet sound using the same place and manner of articulation. It is easy to feel which is which if you put your hand on you voicebox. You will feel a vibration for the noisy sounds and nothing for the quiet ones. Try this with the sounds “s” and “z”.
Children with speech and literacy difficulties often find it helpful to think about how they are making different sounds. This can be a big help when they are trying to work out how to spell or read different words. Some simple signing systems have been created which can be used to support this. Please speak to your Speech and Language Therapist if you would like more help in this area.
The patterns of articulation for the key English consonants are summarised below:
The main consonant pairs and their descriptions (the noisy sound is shown in bold):
“f” and “v” are Lip Coolers. You make a thin gap between your top teeth and bottom lip and let the air pass through.
“th” (teeth) and “th” (the) are Tongue Coolers. You make a thin gap between your tongue and your top teeth and let the air pass through.
“t” and “d” are Tongue Tappers. You stop the air by lifting the tip of your tongue up just behind your top teeth and then let go. If you make a few “t” sounds in a row it feels as though your tongue is tapping against the roof of your mouth.
“s” and “z” are Skinny Sounds. You bring your tongue tip up behind your top teeth, but leave a small hole for the air to pass through.
“sh” and “ge” (beige) are Fat Sounds. You bring you tongue tip up slightly further back in your mouth and leave a wider gap for the air to pass through.
“ch” and “j” are Pushed Sounds. You make the movement for “t” or “d” and then release it into the shape for “sh” or “ge”. This happens so quickly that it is heard as one sound. However, a child having difficulty making any one of the sounds used will find it hard to make pushed sounds and should work on the individual articulations first.
“k” and “g” are Back Kickers. You bring the back of your tongue up against the back of the roof of your mouth (soft palate) and then let go.
“h” is an Air Sound and does not have a noisy partner, as it is made by letting the air pass straight through your voicebox and out of your mouth.
“m”, “n” and “ng” are the Nose Sounds. They are made by closing off the passage through your mouth and making the air go up and out through your nose. There is one nose sound for each of the key positions in your mouth “m” is made with the lips. “n” is made with the tongue tip behind the teeth. “ng” is made with the back of the tongue raised against the soft palate.