Dialects are not disorders

When evaluating and treating our clients with speech sound disorders, it is important to keep in mind dialectal variations. If our clients have a dialectal variation, this does not mean that they automatically have a speech sound disorder.

Keep in mind...

  1. A dialect is a variation of a symbol system used by a group of individuals that reflects and is determined by shared regional, social, or cultural/ethnic factors.
  2. For example, we have the southern, eastern, midwestern, and western dialects in America.
  3. An accent is a different variation of a language that sounds different.
  4. For example, there is American English, United Kingdom English, and Australian English.
  5. A language disorder is an impairment in comprehension and/or use of spoken, written, and/or other symbolic systems.

Here are some examples of dialectal differences we may see when evaluating and treating clients. There are certain speed sound constructions that are acceptable and rule-based in each dialect that might show up as an error and lead to a disorder diagnosis, but it's not a disorder, just a dialectal variation.

Southern American English (regional)

  1. /ɛ/ and /i/ merge into /ɪ/.
  2. "twenty", "Memphis", and "Missouri"
  3. /ɪ/ for /i/ at word endings.
  4. "really" and "story"
  5. /aɪ/ diphthong reduced to /a/.
  6. "fairwood", "vine", and "prize"
  7. use /n/ rather than /ŋ/ at word endings.
  8. "runnin" vs. "running".
  9. derhotacization of /ɝ/ to /ɜ/.
  10. "nurse" and "rare"

Eastern American English (regional)

  1. Produce /a/ instead of /ɑ/.
  2. "long" and "car"
  3. Derhotacization
  4. "hopper", "anywhere", and "here"
  5. R-deletion
  6. Use /ʊ/ instead of /u/.
  7. "room", "goose"
  8. Vowel merger of /ɔ/ and /ɑ/ to /ɜ/.

African American English (social)

  1. Different variations of AAE, depending on location.
  2. Final consonant deletion
  3. “school” to “schoo”
  4. Substituting sounds (stopping)
  5. “they” to “day”
  6. “them” to “dem”
  7. Cluster reduction
  8. “roads” to “roas”
  9. Derhotacization and R-deletion
  10. “Horse” to “hose”
  11. “dɝt” to “dɜt”

Spanish Influenced English

  1. May display difficulty with the stress of words (sounds and patterns)
  2. Cluster reduction
  3. “district” to “distric”
  4. Use /u/ instead of /ʊ/.
  5. "foot"
  6. Devoicing
  7. “disease” to “diseaze”
  8. Deaffrication
  9. “yellow” to “jellow”

Asian/Pacific Influenced English

  1. Including speakers with different first languages, (Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese).
  2. Some languages are tone languages where intonation is phonemic.
  3. There are no consonant clusters resulting in cluster reduction.

  4. Errors will often include the addition of a vowel:
  5. Epenthesis: inserting a vowel at the end of the word.
  6. "glue" to "gəlu".
  7. There are few final consonants so they are often deleted.
  8. "district" to "distri"
  9. "start" to "sta"
  10. For Vietnamese speakers /p/ becomes /f/
  11. /l/ and /r/ are often mixed (liquid interchange).