Epenthesis for Final C’s

By Pam Marshalla

Q: My daughter is 31 months old. She speaks in single words and uses single syllables. She leaves off the endings off words. I have been teaching final sounds to her, and now she says them, but she separates them from the rest of the word. For example, she says “uh—puh” for “up.” What should I do now?

Ooo- No worries. You are on the right track! If she is saying final consonants as a second syllable, THIS IS GOOD. She should be saying “cat” as “ca-tuh” and “cup” as “cuh-puh.” This is exactly what little kids do to learn to say a final sound– They turn CVC into CV-CV. The insertion of an additional schwa sound (“uh”) is called “epenthesis.” Most SLP’s consider it a problem. But I don’t. I consider it an asset.

Consider this:  Little kids don’t say “mom” (CVC). They say “momma”  (CV-CV) or “mommy” (CV-CV). They don’t say “dad” (CVC). They say “dada (CV-CV) or “daddy” (CV-CH). Also–

They don’t say “dog” (CVC). They say “doggie” (CV-CV).

They don’t say “cat” (CVC). They say “kitty” (CV-CV) or “titty” (CV-CV).

They don’t say “bird” (CVC). They say “buh-die” (CV-CV). (Think of the R in “bird” as part of the vowel.)

They don’t say “please” (CCVC). They say “puh-wee” (CV-CV).

We could list a hundred different example of this from normal development. Your child is doing the same thing, but she is just doing it with a wider variety of words than does the average child.

The developmental progression might be presented like this:

1 2 3
“Ca” “Ca-tuh” “Cat”
“Do” “Do-guh” “Dog”
“Ma” “Ma-ma” “Mom”
“Da” “Da-da” “Dad”
“Cah” “Cah-ruh” “Car”
“Ee” “Ee-tuh” “Eat”
“Uh” “Uh-puh” “Up”

This is what I would do: Let her do it. Encourage her to do it. Teach her to do it. Teach her to say lots of words this way.  This is what I do with all my clients because I consider the CV-CV to be a bridge between the CV and the CVC.

11 thoughts on “Epenthesis for Final C’s”

  1. I know diminutization is a similar process-but what about a 2 year old who used to say “wagon”, but is now saying “wag-ie”, and turning “pumpkin” into “pun-kie”

  2. Pam, I found this through a different search and hope you can help. I’m also an SLP, but recently completed testing on a 10 year old student referred for dysfluency. She’s not still learning to produce any of her sounds, and her schwa addition is quite frequent–but only in word-final position. It may occur up to 3-4 times in a single utterance (not as a part-word repetion, but as what appears to be true epenthesis. It is not seeming to help with the fluency either; there doesn’t seem to be greater flow when she uses it, and yet she doesn’t seem to be stuck on it either.
    Have you seen this feature? Would you view it as an aspect of dysfluency or something else? Her phono. inventory is intact. Many thanks!

    1. Gina-
      Do you remember this case from several years ago? Do you recall how you proceeded? I am an SLP working in an elementary school and I have a 9 year old that has finished working on Rs but now all of the sudden he is adding uh after words in connected speech. He’s none years old and I’m wondering if I should work on this in therapy before exiting him. Do you remember from so many years ago?? Oh, I hope you do. 🙂

      1. Veronic and Gina,
        I also have a 9;6M who is also doing this. How did you address it? Could you point me in the direction of some resources to help? 🙂 thank you!

  3. @ Joy – Two-year-olds SHOULD say adorable things like “wa-gie” for “wagon,” and “pun-kie” for “pumpkin.” It’s normal! Encourage it! Play with it! Have fun with it! He will outgrow it when he is ready.

  4. I totally agree with this post for younger children. I have a client who is 11 and still adding a very noticeable “uh” to the end of all his phrases and sentences. At first I assumed it was just voiced final consonants, but it isn’t dependent on voicing. He might say something like “I went to the park-uh, and my brother-uh, went down the slide-uh, before me-uh.” He’s only able to eliminate the extra voicing with maximal support at the word level, and even then, only sometimes. I’m curious if anyone has encountered similar processes in older children, and if so, what cues were effective?

  5. My 8 yr old daughter adds a schwa after final l’s (like in the word “school”). It makes the word sound odd. Should I try to remedy this, or just give it more time? I try to get her to slow down and exaggerate her sounds…other than that I don’t know much else to do.

  6. I have two Elementary students this year who are using Epenthesis. For the first student it appears to be a phonological process. He has had many phonological processes addressed, and this appears to be one more.

    For the second student, it seems more like a fluency disorder – possibly cluttering? He adds a schwa to the end of many final consonant sounds of words, just like the example above from Alycia (in the sentence with brother, park, slide). I’ve also wondered if he developed this as a strategy to buy himself more processing time for expressive language tasks. However, he’s not identified as a student with a language disorder. (We can’t test language skills in my district without an academic referral.)
    Thank you for your input! Lorrie

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