This advice-column-style blog for SLPs was authored by Pam Marshalla from 2006 to 2015, the archives of which can be explored here. Use the extensive keywords list found in the right-hand column (on mobile: at the bottom of the page) to browse specific topics, or use the search feature to locate specific words or phrases throughout the entire blog.
Lateral Lisps in Languages Other than English
By Pam Marshalla
Q: I am an SLP from Greece, and I’ve been working with a five-year-old girl with lateral lisp for four months. She still cannot produce a clear “S”. I am interested in buying your book on this subject, but I’d like to know whether these techniques apply only to English. Also, I have heard some SLPs claim that a lateral lisp cannot always be cured.
I have never met a lateral lisp that could not be fixed except in the case of low cognitive skills, autism spectrum disorder, or deafness. I have however met many SLPs who do not know how to treat a lateral lisp. Perhaps those from whom you have heard these negative reports simply do not know how to do it.
I do not know the Greek language, so I do not know how many sibilants you have. American English has six: S (soap), Z (zebra), Sh (shoe), Zh (vision), Ch (chew), and J (jump). I am sure Greek has S, but I do not know the rest of the story. The reason I mention this is because with a lateral lisp, you cannot look only at S. You have to look at how the client is treating all the sibilants. Usually the client uses the same incorrect motor pattern on all of them, and complete success only will be attained when you fix all of them.
I would assume that everything I have outlined in my book on the lisps would apply to all languages. That is because stridency is a universal distinctive feature, and the process to make it is the same in all languages, according to Peter Ladefoged and other linguists.
To create stridency, the tongue elevates its lateral margins and positions them against the sides of the palate. This creates a midline groove. Air travels through this channel and strikes against the front teeth so that frication/stridency is created. My book teaches the basics about how to accomplish this tongue position for the six English sibilants.
For more information see my other blog posts on the lateral lisp. I used to have an on-line course on the lateral lisp, but it is no longer available. We will see if we can do it again soon.
- Ladefoged, P. (2005) Vowels and Consonants: An Introduction to the Sounds of Languages. Australia: Blackwell.
- Marshalla, P. (2007) Frontal Lisp, Lateral Lisp. Mill Creek: Marshalla Speech and Language.