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  • Writer's pictureThe Speech Sound Clinic

Why Your Toddler Says 'Wabbit' Instead of 'Rabbit': Understanding Phonological Development

All children present with speech errors as they develop their ability to form words and build their communication skills. We get lots of enquiries from parents who are worried that their child’s speech is not as clear as their peers. However, it is important to remember, that a lot of these errors are completely ‘typical’ and will more than likely resolve in their own time.

We call these errors in speech ‘phonological speech processes’, where each process resolves between an expected age range.


Here are some common developmental phonological speech processes that children acquire as they develop their speech and language skills:

1. Reduplication: This process involves the repetition of a syllable in a word. For example, a child might say "dada" for "father" or "wawa" for "water".

2. Weak syllable deletion: Children may delete unstressed syllables in words, such as saying "nana" for "banana" or "mato" for "tomato".

3. Consonant deletion: Children may leave out a consonant sound in a word, such as saying "ate" for "skate" or "un" for "sun".

4. Cluster reduction: Children may simplify consonant clusters in words by leaving out one of the sounds, such as saying "top" for "stop" or "pan" for "plan".

5. Fronting: This process involves replacing sounds made in the back of the mouth with sounds made in the front, such as saying "tup" for "cup" or "dat" for "that".

6. Gliding: Children may replace certain sounds with a "w" or "y" sound, such as saying "wabbit" for "rabbit" or "yeyo" for "yellow".

7. Stopping: This process involves replacing a fricative sound with a stop sound, such as saying "dun" for "sun", or

8. Final consonant deletion: Children may leave off the final consonant in a word, such as saying "ca" for "cat" or "do" for "dog".

9. Deaffrication: This process involves replacing an affricate, such as "ch" and "j", with a fricative (sh) or a stop (t), such as saying "chip" changes to "Ship" or "tip"


There is an age range in which children typically resolve these errors, these are outlined below:

Phonological Process

Age Range it Resolves


2;0 - 3;0


​2;0 - 3;11

Weak syllable deletion

2;0 - 3;11

Consonant deletion

2;0 - 4;11

​Cluster reduction

2;0 - 4;11


2;0 - 3;5

Final consonant deletion



2;0 - 5;11


2;0 - 4;11

It's important to remember that not all children go through all of these processes, and some may go through them at different rates or with different variations.

Although these processes are generally considered part of ‘normal’ speech development, if they persist beyond a certain age or interfere with a child's ability to communicate, it may be a sign of a speech disorder or delay and require intervention from a speech-language therapist.


I hope you found this helpful. If you have any concerns or comments to add, make you contact us with your feedback.

Oonagh 😃



Bowen, C. (2011). Table 2: Phonological Processes. Retrieved from

Lanza, J. R., Flahive, L. K. (2012) Linguisystems guide to Communication Milestones (Lingui Systems, Texas)

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