Speech Sound Norms

When do Speech Sounds Develop?

  • Children begin to use certain speech sounds at particular ages. Shriberg (1993) categorized 24 speech sounds into early, middle, and late acquisition groups, known as the “early 8,” “middle 8,” and “late 8” sounds.  Children should have a complete phonemic inventory of English sounds by age 8.  Speech errors that persist beyond 8 years are considered residual articulation errors and often involve the “late 8” sounds.

    Early 8
    By age 3, your child should be able to say the following sounds:
    /m/ as in “mama”
    /b/ as in “baby”
    /j/ as in “you”
    /n/ as in “no”
    /w/ as in “we”
    /d/ as in “daddy”
    /p/ as in “pop”
    /h/ as in “hi”

    Middle 8
    By age 5 ½, your child should be able to say the following sounds:
    /t/ as in “two”
    /ŋ/ as in “running”
    /k/ as in “cup”
    /g/ as in “go”
    /f/ as in “fish”
    /v/ as in “van”
    /tʃ/ as in “chew”
    /dʒ/ as in “jump”

    Late 8
    By age 7, your child should be able to say the following sounds:
    /ʃ/ as in “sheep”
    /s/ as in “see”
    /θ/ as in “think”
    /ð/ as in “that”
    /r/ as in “red”
    /z/ as in “zoo”
    /l/ as in “like”
    /ʒ/ as in “measure”

    Intelligibility
    Intelligibility describes how much of your child’s overall speech is understood by an unfamiliar listener.  Coplan & Gleason (1988) cited the following norms, using the formula:
    Age in Years / 4 x 100 = % Understood by Strangers
    Age 1 = 1/4 or 25% intelligible to strangers
    Age 2 = 2/4 or 50% intelligible to strangers
    Age 3 = 3/4 or 75% intelligible to strangers
    Age 4 = 4/4 or 100% intelligible to strangers (speech sound errors still quite possible)