/k/ sounds, like in “car,” and /g/ sounds, like in “go,” are among the earlier developing sounds in a child’s repertoire. These sounds tend to emerge after bilabial sounds (/p, b, m/) are mastered, and most children will be consistently using /t, d, n/ sounds as well. While there is always a range for development, most children will master /k/ and /g/ sounds before 4 years old.
Understanding Pronunciation of /k/ and /g/:
- Place of production: /k/ and /g/ sounds are produced in the same place – the back of themouth. Formally classified as “velars,” these sounds are often referred to as “back sounds.” The tongue is elevated in the back, making contact with the velum or “soft palate.” Typically errors in place of production are most common for these sounds.
- Manner of production: These sounds are classified as “stops” or “plosives,” meaning that the sound does not get continuously pushed out, like it would with an /s/, for example. There is a burst of sound when producing a /k/ or /g/ sound alone.
- Voicing: /k/ and /g/ place and manner of production are identical, however these two sounds differ when it comes to voicing. /k/ is the voiceless pair to /g/’s voiced sound. For example, when producing a /k/ sound, our vocal chords are off (not vibrating), however when producing a /g/ sound, our vocal chords are on and vibrating. Try it – put your hand on your throat and feel the vibration when producing a /g/, and feel the difference when producing an /k/! Many children will understand the difference between the two sounds but may substitute one for the other.
These sounds are integral for a child’s overall speech intelligibility, however there are common errors that are often seen for /k/ and /g/ sounds. These sounds are produced in the “back” of the mouth, and children who error will tend to substitute “front” sounds for /k/ and /g/. For example, a child who is demonstrating fronting may ask for “teas” when intending to play with keys, or may ask for “tate” rather than cake! When fronting /g/ sounds, children may explain “frod” for frog, or even “dorilla” for gorilla. These errors are common, however, may warrant remediation if they persist past 3 years old.