What are the Different Types of Articulation Disorders?

Karyn Maier
Karyn Maier

Articulation disorders, also known as phonetic disorders, affect more children and adults than most people realize. In fact, only about 10 percent of the general population exhibits perfectly “normal” speech in terms of being completely free of tonal imperfections or articulation and phonological disorders. In children, articulation disorders are most frequently associated with neurological disorders due to birth complications or genetically inherited medical conditions that can affect speech, such as neurofibromatosis and cystic fibrosis. Adult speech, on the other hand, most commonly becomes altered later in life due to a stroke, brain trauma, or the onset of dementia. However, articulation disorders can also appear in both adults and children without any specific known cause.

Injury to the larynx can produce articulation disorders.
Injury to the larynx can produce articulation disorders.

The most common classification of articulation disorders is referred to simply as voice disorders. Although voice disorders include a greater range of problems than articulation, some of these difficulties can impact speech quality as a secondary consequence. For instance, abnormal voice quality due to injury, disease, or surgical removal of the larynx will likely produce articulation disorders in addition to difficulties regulating speech volume, tone, and pitch.

There are many different chromosomal abnormalities.
There are many different chromosomal abnormalities.

Other general speech disorders that can negatively affect articulation include stuttering and cluttering, which are characterized by the involuntary repetition of words or a disordered rhythm of speech, respectively. These factors are significant since a large percentage of people who exhibit such disorders also display articulation disorders. In addition, those who have receptive language difficulties are likely to adopt incorrect phonetic patterns due to being unable to adequately process and learn sounds. This may be due to a hearing impairment, or due to an inability to distinguish differences between particular sounds. For example, children with articulation disorders frequently have trouble with certain consonants and may pronounce them all the same in way in a linguistic event known as a phoneme collapse.

Dysarthria is a speech disorder that may develop after a stroke or brain injury.
Dysarthria is a speech disorder that may develop after a stroke or brain injury.

Similarly, articulation disorders may stem from impaired comprehension of speech due to some form of injury to the brain, such as a stroke. In addition to speech recognition being affected in such cases, the inability to produce speech often occurs as well. This type of acquired articulation disorder is known as aphasia. However, if speech becomes labored specifically due to difficulty swallowing as the result of a stroke or neurological disorder, then the condition is referred to as dysphagia.

Adult speech commonly becomes altered later in life due to the onset of dementia.
Adult speech commonly becomes altered later in life due to the onset of dementia.

Dysarthria is another speech disorder that may also develop after a stroke or brain injury. However, dysarthria produces articulation disorders due to weakness or paralysis of facial muscles. Dysarthria also occurs in those with progressive neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease.

Articulation disorders may occur as a result of genetically inherited medical conditions.
Articulation disorders may occur as a result of genetically inherited medical conditions.

While articulation disorders may occur due to a variety of causes, scientists are making steady progress in identifying specific genetic factors. In fact, the Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders recently published the results of a study that was part of a 20-year program designed to investigate genetic causes of speech and language disorders. The study confirmed previous findings that such disorders are linked to gene KIAA0319 of Chromosome 6.

Speech may become labored specifically due to difficulty swallowing as the result of a stroke.
Speech may become labored specifically due to difficulty swallowing as the result of a stroke.
A hearing impairment may contribute to a person having an articulation disorder.
A hearing impairment may contribute to a person having an articulation disorder.
A speech therapist may work with individuals who have articulation disorders.
A speech therapist may work with individuals who have articulation disorders.
Dysarthria produces articulation disorders due to weakness or paralysis of the facial muscles.
Dysarthria produces articulation disorders due to weakness or paralysis of the facial muscles.
Karyn Maier
Karyn Maier

Contributing articles to wiseGEEK is just one of Karyn’s many professional endeavors. She is also a magazine writer and columnist, mainly for health-related publications, as well as the author of four books. Karyn lives in New York’s Catskill Mountain region and specializes in topics about green living and botanical medicine.

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