Discussion 4: The Sounds of Language

This week, we begin our exploration of speech sounds with three short chapters (chapters 4 and 5 in David Crystal’s book and chapter 28 in Rickerson & Hilton’s book).

In David Crystal’s chapters, he frequently refers to how children learn to acquire sounds. He mentions a few tendencies: babies usually learn to say the first part of a word (or syllable, really) before any consonants that appear on the end (so aw daw instead of all gone, with no [l] or [n] sounds), and they usually have an easier time learning consonants where your tongue is at the front of your mouth, like [d], than those where your tongue is at the back, like [g] (hence daw instead of gone). And even older children, around 6 or 7 years old, often have trouble with complex consonant clusters, like the str– in string.

For this thread, I’d like you to apply this to your own experiences. Reflect on your own life or the life of anyone you know. When you were learning your first language, were there any particular speech sounds that you had trouble acquiring?

To give an example from my own life, I had a lot of trouble with the back consonants, [k] and [g], as a young child. I pronounced “coffee” as “toffee.” Even worse, my brother’s name is Guy, which I used to pronounce as die. Pretty grim. Remember, as mentioned in the chapter, that [k] and [g] are almost exactly the same, except that [g] is voiced and [k] is voiceless. You’ll also notice that this is right in line with what David Crystal mentions.

25 thoughts on “Discussion 4: The Sounds of Language”

  1. When I was first learning language I don’t remember having trouble acquiring any speech sounds but I have been told by my family that instead of saying “speed bump” I would say “bee bump”. I am assuming I had a hard time making the [ss] sound. Also, I would call a “remote” a “merote” but im not sure if that is because I couldn’t pronounce it or I would get confused saying it.

  2. When my younger brother was first beginning to speak, when he would say my name which is pronounced Kay-lub he would pronounce it Kay-wub. This would affect other words using the [l] sound as he would not be able to properly make that sound and would instead replace it with the W like sound. Today as a joke sometimes I’ll be called Kawub instead of Kaleb despite my brothers issue with the [l] sound being long gone.

  3. I’d like you to apply this to your own experiences. Reflect on your own life or the life of anyone you know. When you were learning your first language, were there any particular speech sounds that you had trouble acquiring?

    When I was growing up, I never had issues with learning language and how to speak. However, my younger brother did have trouble speaking when growing up. When he was younger he had a gap between his front teeth. So this affected his speech. For example, in the word “snake”, the [S] makes an “sssss” sound for most of us. However when my brother would pronounce “snake” he would say “thnake”. The [S] does a “thhh” sound for him. This would go to other [S] words as well, “snail”, “sand”, and “sail” All these [S] words affected his speech when he was younger, but when he got older the gap closed slowly, and his speech when it came to [S] words gotten better overtime.

  4. when I was growing up English was my second language. I was fluent in Arabic. In the Arabic alphabet the letter “p” is used as out letter “b”. Therefore when I was trying to speak English I would pronounce certain words with the letter “b” instead of “p”. an example is I used to say the word “play” and “blay”. Over time with elementary school, I started getting better. Of course, I feel like there are some words I cannot pronounce but now I know the difference between the letters “b” and “p”. Also, growing up my brother used to have trouble with the “r” pronouncing. although English was his first language, couldn’t pronounce the “R”, he would make the “l” sound. What confused us all was he knew how to use the r sound in every word, but when it came to saying my cousin “Rawan’s” name he would say “lowan”. we never knew why it was just her name he couldn’t say. Over the last few years he has learned how to say her name properly.

  5. I don’t remember having much trouble with english words but i grew up speaking english and russian so when my mom would talk to me in russian she would always correct my pronunciation on words. i would also confuse words that had the same sounds at the beginning of the word in russian even though it was kind of my first language we mostly talked in english and it confused my brain with all the different sounds.

  6. When I was younger all I can remember and was told that I would usually name stuff other than its original name and the only sound is was struggling in was [kh] sound which I would pronounce as [h] . I know that in English it’s different but in Arabic it’s not supposed to be making the [h] sound but rather a more harsh sound.
    The [Y] sound was also an issue back then as I used to call it [ou] , so if I would say ‘youssef’ , I actually pronounce it ‘oussef’. I would usually just drop the [y].

  7. Growing up there were certain speech sounds I had trouble with. For me, it was pronouncing the word ice cream. My [e] in ice would sound like a [t]. When I was about 2-3 years old, I needed to get stitches on my tongue after falling on my bottle. I did have a lisp and ended up having to do speech classes to correct it. Eventually, I grew out of it and could pronounce the word correctly. My sister has a niece who has trouble saying her name Aunt Steph. Since she can’t say her name fully she calls her nashi that is her way of saying it.

  8. As a child, when I was first learning how to speak I would have trouble pronouncing d and b correctly. For instance, much longer words that had the letters b and d in them would be a struggle for me. One example was when I would read the word “dog” I would say “bog”. It also took me a long time to read words that had the letter “x” in them. I would forget how the “x” sound was since not many words include the letter x. Reading out loud would be challenging for me as I would forget how to pronounce words as I read them.

  9. I cannot recall having any difficulties with my first language, but I do have one instance for the English language. When I was in third grade, I remember saying the number three. The problem was that I was saying it like “tree”, which my teacher noticed. She then told me to pronounce it like “three” with the “th” sound. I found this difficult to do since I had been saying the number three like this for a while. Eventually, I stopped saying it like that. It is possible that I may have pronounced three like that due to me hearing someone saying it like that, or that is how I just started saying it when I first learned the word.

  10. Growing up english was my first language but I struggled speaking it. I attended speech once I started elementary school. There were so many words and phrases that I was unable to pronounce for example instead of saying “hospital” I used to say “hopital”. My brother’s name is Anthony and I could not pronounce th sounds so I would call him “atony”. I am very thankful that my parents noticed I had a speech problem and were able to help me early in my life rather then later. Even though I got the help I needed, I still catch myself sometimes unable to pronounce certain words and if I talk to fast the words don’t come out like there supposed to.

  11. When I was a child I had many problems pronouncing and spelling words. In elementary school, I attended speech therapy to help me sound out words better. I found it very difficult to pronounce/spell “the,” “this,” and “are.” I didn’t fully understand the [th] sound in a “t-h” word and would get really confused when trying to spell it. “Are” MADE ME SO MAD WHEN I WAS YOUNGER. I would say it all the time correctly, but when I had to spell it, it made me totally forget how to pronounce it. This is because I would spell out “r” and thought I was done for the day. THEN, I realized it’s spelled “a-r-e” and would say “ae-ry” when looking at it on paper BECAUSE ‘A’ + ‘E’ IN A WORD MAKES AN [A] SOUND AND NOT AN [AH] SOUND. Whatever. Furthermore, I didn’t understand “ou” words either, like “found” and “ouch.” One day thankfully it all clicked but it still haunts me that I had THAT much trouble as a kid.

  12. Growing up I don’t recall having difficulty saying certain sounds but specific words I did have issues with. I was corrected a lot because I pronounced ‘spaghetti’ as “sketti” and although I eventually learned how to say spaghetti, I actually call it sketti to this day. My sister called it “pasghetti.” and the adults would correct her by saying it slowly and asking her to pronounce it properly, although they thought it was cute. Saying ‘ambulance’ was very hard for me too. I would leave the ‘u’ out and constantly be corrected with adults repeating the word and slowly pronouncing the ‘u’ so I would get the hint. So although I don’t recall having trouble speaking certain sounds (I’m sure I did) I do remember specific words. As an adult I still cannot say ‘nuclear’ and it drive some people crazy, so of course I say “nucular” lol and I’m curious what gymnastic program my tongue has to attend to say be able to perform the word “worcestershire”

  13. When I was young and learning to speak, I had trouble saying some sounds and inflection’s, especially the ones where you put your tongue at the back of your mouth, like the sounds in “coffee” and “Guy.” I would say “toffee” instead of “coffee” and “die” instead of “Guy.” It took me a while, but with practice, I got better at saying these sounds correctly. This is similar to what David Crystal talks about, how kids often struggle with certain sounds until they get more practice. It shows that learning to talk is a gradual process that gets easier with time.

  14. When I was young and learning to speak, I had trouble saying some sounds and inflection’s, especially the ones where certain sound’s form in a similar manner. When I was a little kid I used to say “Car” like “Bar”, and as I tried correcting it, it sounded less and less coherent as I had a speech impediment. In elementary school during English class when we would have to read our group book’s out loud, I would have a hard time repeating phrases in the correct way, ending up formulating completely different sentences. This is similar to what David Crystal talks about, how kids often struggle with certain sounds until they get more practice. It shows that learning to talk is a gradual process that gets easier with time.

  15. I remember having trouble making the “th” sound when I was younger. Whenever I tried saying words like “three”, “their”, or anything with a “th” in the word, I would pronounce it either with a “t” or “d”. Same thing with my little cousin. He’s currently having trouble pronouncing words that have “th” in them. He also has trouble saying words that start with a “k” sound. He would pronounce words like coffee or kindle as “goffee” or “gindle”

  16. I remember as a child, I was learning two languages at once (English and Spanish), and I remember struggling a lot with pronunciation. I was even in speech class because these issues were interfering with my ability to speak (at all), but of course, I was able to overcome it with the therapy since it was helpful. If I have to recall, I remember having issues with the [r] sound, especially in the word “car” which I would pronounce as “cauh” when I was little, so that reminds me of the chapter we read on how children often only say the first syllable of a word when they are learning. I also had trouble “trilling” my [rr] sound, and to this day, I cannot roll my R’s when I speak spanish, so I just make a [d] sound to emulate it, in a way.

  17. I can’t remember having trouble pronouncing words when I was small, but I do remember having a cousin who had trouble pronouncing some words. I remember during a conversation; they were saying ‘rural’, but it sounded like ‘wural’. I remember it stood out to me because it was one of the first times, I heard it from them.

  18. I remember from when I was a young child, I would pronounce the word “asked” like “axed” . I would say it had a lot to do with slang dialect growing up in New York. We tend to “eat up” words like from “going too” to “gonna”. So I feel that because a lot of my spoken dialect around friends and family can be slang when we don’t have to use proper dialect might have influenced that.

  19. I remember when I was a young child, I used to pronounce the [v] sound as a [w]. For instance, I would say “woice” instead of “voice”. This is something I do struggle with to this day, since for me [w] and [v] sound similar when you pronounce them. Another word that I used to have trouble with when I was a kid was the word “literally”, I used to pronounce that as “witerally”. This word is still a struggle for me, since if you keep on repeating it, it becomes harder to pronounce.

  20. In exploring speech sounds, David Crystal and Rickerson & Hilton highlight how children acquire language, noting tendencies like early preference for certain sounds and difficulty with complex consonant clusters. Reflecting on personal experiences, one colleague shared struggles with back consonants [k] and [g], mispronouncing words like “coffee” as “toffee” due to dental issues. Another, whose first language was Arabic, initially substituted Arabic “b” for English “p,” evolving through elementary school. Additionally, their brother faced difficulty with the English “r” sound, pronouncing it as “l.” A third classmate, despite English being their first language, encountered speech difficulties, attending therapy and initially mispronouncing words like “hospital” as “hopital.” These anecdotes underscore the universality of speech acquisition challenges, influenced by factors like dental structure, bilingualism, and individual speech development.

  21. When I was growing up, I never had any problems with learning languages and how to speak it despite being bilingual. I grew up speaking both English and Albanian. I never had a problem speaking both languages. I remember my cousin would have a problem saying “caramel” as “taramel”, but after a few years she grew out of it.

  22. When I was younger, the only thing I had trouble saying was [ss], with my tongue. My dentist told me I had a tongue tie or something like that, and that led to the lisp. I also had an issue with cutting out parts of words to make it easier to say. For example, instead of saying “excuse me” I would say ‘scu me” all the time. When I got older I thought saying it like that was childish and I grew out of it.

  23. When I was younger I would have a hard time pronouncing the word “mommy” I couldn’t pronounce bilabial consonant sounds like the /mm/ sound in the word “mommy.” Whenever I would call my mom I would say “nani” instead, since the n is a voiced alveolar nasal sound it was easier for me to say.

  24. While I don’t recall having a specific speech issue growing up, I’m starting to learn a few tendencies from my 2 year nephew. Instead of him saying “Aunt Jessie” he says Aunt Jethie”. Another thing he seems to have trouble with is “Mac N Cheese ”, which instead he’ll say “Mac and Cheethe’. My sister in law is a teacher and when she corrects him, he understands, but he won’t pick up on it off the bat. While he’s still growing and pronouncing words, this seems to be one of the only things he seems to have trouble with.

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