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Speech Therapy Dictionary

The speech therapy dictionary contains a list of speech therapy terms and their definitions.

Age appropriate

The level of skill that is expected given a child’s age

Articulation / pronunciation

The producing of sounds accurately using the speech muscles, tongue and teeth to make words and sentences that can be clearly understood


The defining features of objects or actions

Auditory closure

The brain’s ability to fill in missing sound information, eg sounds missing from words (i__ cream = ice-cream), or words from sentences (“I wear a ____ to keep warm” = I wear a jumper to keep warm)

Auditory discrimination

The ability to hear the difference between sounds (eg hearing that f and th sound different)

Auditory processing

The ability to hear and process sounds


The verbal sounds made by infants and young children that are often the precursor to speech

Baby talk / Motherese / Child-directed speech

The simple communication of an adult to a young child using exaggerated intonation and stress, eg “He’s a big dog!”


The ability to speak and understand more than one language (eg English and Cantonese)


Being able to join up sounds to make words


Thinking skills or the functions of the mind controlled by the brain, eg memory, attention, concentration


A message that exchanges ideas or information

Communicative temptations

Strategies and strong motivators that make someone want to communicate


Joining words eg and, but, because, so


A letter of the alphabet or a sound that is not a vowel, where the airflow is impeded at some point

Contingent response

A response that is appropriate to what has been said


The ability to read written words by converting letters into sounds and joining them together to make words and sentences.


An shortage in the development or learning of a skill, eg a working memory deficit


Parrotting or imitating speech or sounds that have been heard including words, phrases or sentences

Executive Function

Processes of the frontal lobe of the brain such as focussing attention, shifting focus, working memory, sequencing, controlled emotional response and multitasking

Expressive language

Using words and sentences to convey a message

Figurative language / non-literal language

Expressions that are not intended to be understood literally, eg “My father hit the roof”

Final consonant deletion

Saying words without the last sound


The rules governing the formation of words and how words relate to each other in sentences


Being able to logically determine how or why something occurs

Information processing

A way of describing how the brain deals with information that it receives from different sources


The tune in our voice when we speak, such as the rise and fall in pitch.


Speech sounds or words that are unintelligible or nonsense words, but produced with adult-like speech patterns

Labelling / Naming

Interchangeable terms for know the specific words attached to items or actions


A whole system used for communicating, which usually includes speech but also includes all the other aspects of communication such as non-verbal language, comprehension and pragmatics


The structure in the body that lies above the windpipe and contains the vocal folds/ vocal cords and helps produces voice


A person’s internal dictionary that stores words and their meanings in the brain

Linguistic concepts

Understanding word concepts used in speech, such as words for location, time, quantity or size

Listener orientation / listener awareness

Understanding how much a listener knows or doesn’t know already, and giving the appropriate information to account for this.


The ability to think about words and sounds, which includes phonological awareness, sematic awareness, syntactic awareness, word awareness ad understanding non-literal language.


Mean Length of Utterance, an average measure of how many words or parts of words are used in each sentence.


The parts of words that provide the grammatical component (eg word endings such as –s for plurals).


Story-telling which can include recounting personal events or experiences.

Non-verbal communication

The use of anything other than words to communicate, such as sign language (Makaton, Auslan), picture communication exchange, pictures, tone of voice, facial expression and body language.


Combinations of letters and sounds that look like words but are not real words .

Oral Narrative

The ability to tell a logical sequence of ideas in sentences that convey a story to the listener.

Oral retell / recount

The ability to tell something that has happened to oneself in logical sequence of sentences.


A cavity in the body extending from the nasal cavity to the larynx.


The sound produced from the vibration of the vocal cords (ie voice).


A sound. Exactly where a sound is placed I a word ca e identified as either initial phoneme (first sound), final phoneme (last sound) or medial (middle sound).

Phoneme deletion or sound deletion

The ability to say a word whilst leaving out a particular sound, eg “Say truck without the ‘t’ (= ruck).

Phonological awareness

Understanding about sounds and hearing the difference between sounds.


Sounds, sound sequences and patterns.


The ability to explain what might happen logically or sequentially in a given situation.


The skills needed before reading will be successful, including phonological awareness (awareness of sounds).


Important features of communication that we use in addition to the actual words we speak, including body language, facial expression, tone of voice, volume, intonation , eye contact and other social uses of language.


Similar to intonation, which is the tune in our voice when we speak, and also includes the stress, rhythm, volume and rate of speech.

Rapid Automatic Naming (RAN)

A task requiring the naming of as many items in a category as possible.

Receptive language / comprehension

Understanding or comprehension of language use and meaning.

Reading comprehension

Understanding what is read.


Positive or negative response to a behaviour that encourages or discourages the recurrence of the behaviour.


Clearly identifying who or what is being talked about.


The enlarging or prolonging of sound produced by vibration, such as enhancing the volume and tone of voice using the cavities of the mouth, nose and sinuses.



Segmenting / segmentation/ phoneme segmentation

The ability to hear and isolate all the sounds in a word.


The ability to be aware of and make appropriate adjustments to one’s behaviour or actions, including communication, eg volume in conversation, correcting pronunciation.

Semantic organisation / Semantic categories / Categorisation

The ability to organise words into groups that belong together or are related in some way.

Sensory perception

The ability to feel or register sensory information (ie feedback from the senses), eg feeling that the chin is wet from dribbling, or where to place the tongue when producing sounds, or an awareness of speech volume.


The ability to put things in a correct, logical order, and can be words, pictures, ideas, concepts or stories.

Social Skills

A group of skills necessary to interact successfully with others in different situations using acceptable social behaviours, eg conversation skills and problem solving.

Sound inventory

A list of sounds that can e accurately produced.

Spatial relationships

Words that describe how things are related in space, eg next to, under, left or right.

Speech Pathology/Speech Therapy

Interchangeable terms relating to the work of Speech Pathologists who work with communication difficulties of speech, language, reading, writing, voice and swallowing.


A sound manipulation task where the first sounds of two words are swapped, eg sun and rakebecome run and sake.

Syllable reduction

Reducing multi-syllabic words to a simpler form (eg saying elephant as “ephant”.

Syllable segmentation / syllable detection

The ability to hear and identify individual syllables in a word.


The rules governing word structure and the relationships between words.


When communication deviates from an established topic.

Temporal relationships

Words that describe how things are related in time, eg before or after.

Verbal problem solving

Using language to identify, explain or provide a solution to a problem.


A moving X-ray that is videotaped to observe the swallowing process.

Visual memory

The ability to remember visual images, such as pictures or words.


Knowledge of words.

Voiced and voiceless sounds

Consonants that are produced with or without vibration of the vocal cords. Voiced sounds are produced with vibration of the vocal cords (eg b, v, z, g, d, j), whereas voiceless sounds are produced with breath alone that is shaped by the mouth (eg p, f, sh, s, k, t, ch).


A letter of the alphabet or a sound that is not a consonant, where the airflow is not impeded at any point.

Word association

Understanding the relationship between words and the ability to think of words that are related to one another.

Word retrieval

The ability to find a word stored in the brain and use it.

Working memory

The ability to hold information in the brain until it is recalled and used if necessary.

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