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Speech vs. Language: What’s the Difference?

I. Speech involves several areas -

A. Articulation

B. Voice

C. Fluency

A. Articulation is the process of producing sounds for communicative purposes. Verbal communication begins during infancy and gradually matures throughout early school years. Some students have delayed speech (sounds not mastered at age level) and others have disordered speech (produces speech sounds in a different or unusual way). Below is a chart utilized by St. Johns County School District to determine if a student is exhibiting a delay or disorder in articulating speech sounds. It is expected that a student be at least one year behind their chronological age with three (3) sounds incorrectly produced in order to be eligible as a speech impaired student to receive services within the Exceptional Student Education Program.

Age at which 85 % of GFTA-2 Standardization Sample (2000) correctly produced the consonant and consonant cluster sounds:


Initial position

Medial position

Final position

2 years

/b/, /d/, /h/, /m/, /n/, /p/

/b/, /m/, /n/

/m/, /p/

3 years

/f/, /g/, /k/, /t/, /w/

/f/, /g/, /k/, /n/, /p/, /t/

/b/, /d/, /g/, /k/, /n/, /t/

4 years




5 years

/ch/, /dg/, /l/, /s/, /sh/, /y/, /bl/

/ch/, /dg/, /l/, /s/, /sh/, /z/

/l/, /n/, /ch/, /dg/, /s/, /sh/, /r/, /v/, /z/

6 years

/r/, /v/, /br/, /dr/, /fl/, /fr/, /gl/, /gr/, /kl/, /kr/, /pl/, /st/, /tr/

/r/, /v/


7 years

/z/, /sl/, /sp/, /sw/, /th/



8 years




B. Voice involves the quality, pitch, resonance and intensity of one’s voice. Difficulties may arise from physiological reasons (i.e. polyps, nodules) and others from harmful behaviors or vocal abuse such as screaming, consistent loud talking or sometimes even singing.

C. Fluency is the flow or pattern of one’s speech. This may be interrupted by repetition of sounds or words, long hesitations and pauses. A student may also say a sound in a word for an extended amount of time. Speech may often be difficult to understand during these moments.

II. Language involves the understanding (receptive abilities) and the production (expressive abilities) of information:

and the production ( expressive abilities ) of information : 1. Form of language includes: a.
and the production ( expressive abilities ) of information : 1. Form of language includes: a.

1. Form of language includes:

a. Phonology the sound system of a language and the linguistic rules that govern the sound combinations.

b. Morphology the linguistic rule system that governs the structure of words and the construction of word forms from the basic elements of meaning.

c. Syntax the linguistic rules governing the order and combination of words to form sentences and the relationship among the elements within a sentence.

2. Content of language which includes semantics the linguistic system that patterns the content of an utterance’s intent and the meanings of words and sentences.

3. Function of language which includes pragmatics the sociolinguistic system that patterns the use of language in communication which may be expressed motorically, vocally or verbally.