Semin Speech Lang 2002; 23(1): 043-056
DOI: 10.1055/s-2002-23510
Copyright © 2002 by Thieme Medical Publishers, Inc., 333 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001, USA. Tel.: +1(212) 584-4662

Phonotactic Therapy

Shelley L. Velleman
  • Communication Disorders, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts
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Publication History

Publication Date:
02 April 2002 (online)


Words derive their structure not only from the sounds they include but also from the organization of those sounds within the word. This organization is the phonotactic level of the word: roughly, its shape including the sequence of its elements. Often, children with immature or disordered phonologies demonstrate phonotactic as well as phonetic limitations. Sometimes, the child may produce an age-appropriate variety of consonants and vowels but be unable to use them in the configurations required by the language: final consonants, clusters, multisyllabic words, and so forth. In such cases, the most appropriate therapy goals may be phonotactic, rather than phonetic, ones. Studies have shown that clinical focus on a new word or syllable shape may generalize well beyond the specific sound or sounds targeted in that position. These ideas are explored in this article, along with specific therapy results and recommendations for various phonotactic limitations.


1 This aspect of phonology is also referred to as the ``prosodic tier,'' but we will use the term phonotactic here to avoid confusion between syllable and word shapes versus intonation

2 Other languages have different stress patterns. For example, in French the last syllable of the word always gets the primary stress