Phonological skills in children acquiring Finnish at 3;6. The associations with lexical, auditory word recognition, and pre-reading skills

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

Linnanmaa, L10

Topic of the dissertation

Phonological skills in children acquiring Finnish at 3;6. The associations with lexical, auditory word recognition, and pre-reading skills

Doctoral candidate

Master of Arts Eija Aalto

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Humanities, Logopedics

Subject of study



Doctor Kathryn Crowe, University of Iceland


Associate Professor Suvi Stolt, University of Helsinki

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Speech clarity in Finnish speaking children at 3;6. Associations to vocabulary, recognizing spoken words, and pre-reading skills

Eija Aalto studied three and half-year-old Finnish-speaking children’s speech clarity. Children’s speech clarity was associated with vocabulary skills, recognizing spoken words in babble noise, and pre-reading skills.

The participants were 67 Finnish-speaking children. Their skills were evaluated in the areas of speech clarity, vocabulary, recognizing spoken words, and pre-reading. The methods used in the study are commonly used by the speech-language pathologist in Finland, but the PhD candidate developed the listening task.

The results revealed that at the age of 3;6 Finnish children speak already clearly. Many children still struggled with the speech sounds /r/ and /d/. The /r/ sound is motorically complex and thus learned late. On the contrary, the speech sound /d/ is easy to pronounce, but its late acquisition is related to the Finnish speech sound structure. Furthermore, the words that start with a consonant cluster (like a princess) were still challenging at this age. Both language-specific and universal patterns were noted in the children’s speech development. Speech clarity was associated with the skills in vocabulary, recognizing spoken words, and pre-reading. The size of expressive vocabulary at 2;0 affected speech clarity and recognizing spoken words still after one-and-half years later. If a child had difficulty pronouncing the sound /r/, they usually replaced it with the sound /l/. Interestingly, children also made mistakes between the same two sounds when they were listening to the words in babble noise.

The development of speech clarity needs to be studied separately in each language so that the diagnoses and interventions of developmental delays and impairments can be placed accurately. If a child had a delay in speech clarity development, concurrent support in speech clarity, vocabulary, and listening accuracy may be beneficial since the skills associated. With the right scaffolding, the representations in the child’s memory may be finetuned in the areas of pronunciation, listening accuracy, and word meaning. Also, good listening conditions in children’s daily environments may support speech clarity development. Furthermore, teaching the children their letter names can be started early, even though they would not yet speak clearly.
Last updated: 23.1.2024