R and Diphthongs

By Pam Marshalla

Q: My client can produce R in all kinds of words, but he still sounds funny on words like “Player” and “Hour.” Can you help with this?

I have not heard your client, of course, but the word examples you gave make me think that he may be having trouble with R after diphthongs.

Phoneticians tell us that the presence of a diphthong actually causes a glide to be inserted, and your client may not be doing that.  This is a problem that many clients can have toward the end of treatment. Here’s what I have found to work for me…

Take the target word and divide it into two separate syllables.  Over-exaggerate each syllable by adding a full glide to the beginning of the second.  And pause between each syllable so they are truly separate.  For example––

Target Words Practice as Two Separate and Exaggerated Syllables
“Player” “Play” + “Yer”
“Hour” “Ow” + “Wer”
“Liar” “Lie” + “Yer”
“Fire” “Figh” + “Yer”
“Foyer” “Foy” + “Yer”
“Tour” “Too” + “Wer”


Sometimes we have to create three syllables––

Target Words Practice as Two Separate and Exaggerated Syllables
“Your” “Eee” + “Yoo” + “Wor”
“Pure” “Pee” + “You” + “Wer”


You are helping the client tease the diphthongs apart so that the client can produce each section with extreme clarity. You are helping him learn to “super over exaggerate” each part of the sequences. This should help him hear and do each part. Make sure the vowel in each syllable is crystal clear. Then, as he gets better, shorten the distance between the parts to make them sound more natural. This is some of articulation therapy’s most refined work.

Dialect plays a huge part in this and readers may see some of the examples above as incorrect. Therapists must adjust the way words are split into exaggerated syllables according to what is customary in their geographic region.

For example, the word “fire” is problematic. I was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, lived for 15 years in central Illinois, and eventually moved to the west coast. I say “Fire” in two syllables: “Figh + yer.” But I know many people in other regions of the US who say “Far” (It rhymes with “Jar”). Adjust accordingly.

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