Language Glossary

Glossary of Terms


AAC Device

Augmentative and alternative communication devices,

these devices help to transmit and receive messages

in place of spoken language.



Attention Deficit Disorder, which is characterized by

inattention and impulsivity outside of what is

considered to be developmentally appropriate.



Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity, which is

characterized by inattention, impulsivity and

hyperactivity outside of what is considered to be

developmentally appropriate.



The inability to write.


Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s Disease is a form of dementia affecting a

person’s memory, thinking and behavior.


American Sign Language (ASL)

Manual communication established by the Deaf

community.  It is void of oral language and has its own

grammatical structure.


Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.  This is a

disease affecting the cells in the brain and spinal cord

that control movement.  Because the brain is unable

to send messages to the body through neurons,

people who have this disease slowly lose control of

moving their muscles.



The inability to recall people’s names, as well the

names of common objects or places.



A language disorder that is caused by brain damage,

which causes difficulty expressing and

comprehending language.



Apraxia is a motor disorder, causing the brain to have

challenges with motor planning of the articulators.  A

person with apraxia is aware of what they would like

to say, but they have difficulty moving the speech

articulators to produce speech.



Using the parts of the mouth (teeth, tongue and lips)

to produce speech sounds.


Articulation Disorder

An articulation disorder involves difficulty producing

speech sounds with correct manner, placement and



Asperger Syndrome

A developmental disorder impairing social

communication.  This disorder is on the autism

spectrum.  People diagnosed with Asperger syndrome

are typically high functioning.



Lacking muscle coordination during movements that

are voluntary, including walking, picking up objects

and/or speaking.


Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Autism is classified as a Pervasive Developmental

Disorder/Delay.  People diagnosed with this disorder

typically have deficits in the areas of social interaction

and oral communication.


Avoidance Behaviors

Avoidance behaviors are classified as a secondary

behavior of stuttering.  They are behaviors used to

avoid the moment of stuttering; including

circumlocution, interjections, the use of starter

phrases, etc.


Central Auditory Processing Disorder

Challenges in the ability to understand speech and

language in a person who does not have a hearing



Central Hearing Loss

Damage to the eighth nerve in the brain stem causing

hearing loss.



Circumlocution is a secondary behavior of stuttering.

It involves a person knowing what word they would

like to say, but describing the word instead of saying

the target word in order to avoid a moment of



Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate

Birth defects affecting the upper lip and hard palate of

the mouth, in which the tissue never fully forms and

joins together, leaving a narrow opening or gap in the



Closed Head Injury

An injury to the head during which the skull and brain

are never penetrated.



A fluency disorder where the speaker has a rapid or

atypical speaking rate, excessive dysfluencies, as well

as other language or phonological errors when

speaking.  Cluttering often presents as mumbled



Cochlear Implant

An electronic device inserted into the cochlea of

people who have a severe to profound hearing loss

helping to to regenerate sound and hearing similar to

that of a normal cochlea.


Conductive Hearing Loss

A hearing loss taking place in the middle ear, which

disrupts the transmission of sound coming from the

environment traveling to the middle ear.


Core Behaviors

The core behaviors of stuttering, which are the types

of dysfluencies a person who stutters cannot control,

including repetitions, prolongations and blocks.



Signs that the central nervous system is degenerating,

resulting in the deterioration of mental functioning.

Symptoms include changes in behavior, problems with

memory and a decrease of cognitive skills.


Developmental Apraxia of Speech

A disorder that affects motor planning for the

production of speech.


Down Syndrome

Down Syndrome is a chromosomal disorder, also

called Trisomy-21.  Some physical characteristics

include low muscle tone, a single line across the palm

and wide set, upward slanting eyes.  Speech

characteristics include a substantial delay in first

words and in learning vocabulary, receptive language

is stronger than expressive language and challenges

in phonology, syntax and pragmatics.



A speech disorder, that is typically due to a

generalized weakness in oral muscles.



Impaired ability to write, that is typically due to brain

damage or Language-based Learning Disorder.



A specific learning disability that affects both spoken

and written language.  Dyslexia is characterized by

weak sound-symbol correspondence and difficulties

with phonemic awareness, as well as with oral reading




An immediate, or delayed, involuntary repetition of

words and phrases, typically produced by people who

have autism.



The cause of something, including a speech or

language disorder or difference.


Expressive Language

Expressing a message through oral language, words

or symbols.


Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

The growth, mental and physical problems that can be

caused from a mother drinking alcohol while pregnant.

It can be characterized by poor growth, decreased

muscle tone, developmental delays and facial



Fine-motor Skills

Skills using the small muscles of the body, including

writing and manipulating small objects.



How smoothly sounds, syllables, words and phrases

are joined together when speaking or reading.


Fluent Aphasia

A type of aphasia in which the initiation and

production of speech are typical, but the speaker has

problems with semantics and comprehension.



A MRI that looks at blood flow to specific parts of the

brain while performing certain activities.


Fragile X Syndrome

A genetic condition comprised of changes in part of

the X chromosome.  Symptoms include delays in

crawling and walking, hyperactive behavior, speech

and language delays and decreased eye contact.


Hard Palate

The bony part of the roof of the mouth that separates

the oral and nasal cavities.


Hyperkinetic Dysarthria

A type of dysarthria that has symptoms of involuntary

movement, abnormal muscle tone, problems with

phonation and the rate and loudness of voice.



Having the ability to read and recognize words at a

much higher level than a person’s cognitive and

language level.  However, having little comprehension

of what was read.



Abnormally low muscle tone.



An Individualized Education Program is an academic

plan required for all students participating in special

education services in public school.  It includes

educational goals based on strengths and challenges

found in the evaluation process.



Acting without thought and concern of the




The pattern, tone and cadence of speech.  Intonation

helps to distinguish different types of sentences, for

example a question versus an exclamation.



Language used by a particular group, profession or

geographical area.


Joint Attention

The shared focus and attention of two individuals to

the same object or stimulus.


Language Delay

Developing language skills at a slower rate than is

typically appropriate for age and cognitive functioning.


Language Difference

Language behaviors that are not in line with a 

person’s native language.


Language Disorder

A disruption of a person’s ability to learn a language

without any cognitive deficits.  Examples include when

a person has a challenging time speaking correctly

and understanding spoken language clearly.


Language-based Learning Disability

Problem with age-appropriate reading, writing or



Learning Disability

Learning problem that affects acquisition and use of

listening, speaking, writing, reading, mathematical and

reasoning skills.






Mean length of utterances.



Demonstrating desired behavior in order to prompt an

imitative response.



Units of meaning that make up language, including

rules that change meaning at the word level.



A noninvasive scan of the body done by magnets to

measure blood flow.


Non-fluent Aphasia

Aphasia that affects speech output, causing the

speaker to speak in slow, labored speech and in

shorter phrases.  The person is still able to

understand speech and read well, however writing is



Nonverbal Learning Disorder

Nonverbal Learning Disorder is a neurological

syndrome in which the people affected have a variety

of strengths and challenges.  People with this disorder

typically have strengths in the areas of speech and

vocabulary development, rote memory, attention to

detail and great spelling skills.  People with this

disorder typically have challenges in motor

coordination, social skills, sensory sensitivity,

problems solving math problems and visual-spatial



Otitis Media

Inflammation of the middle ear that is also know as an

ear infection.


Parkinson’s Disease

A disorder of the brain, which is characterized by

tremors and having difficulty with movement and



Percentile Score

Percentage of individuals of a certain age range who

scored below a predetermined raw score on an



Peripheral Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss and hearing losses

associated with the inner ear.


PET Scan

Observation of the brain through the use of positive

emission tomography.


Phonemic Awareness

Knowing that words are made up of sounds and the

relationship between sounds and printed letters.


Phonological Disorder

This disorder involves consistent patterns of sound 

errors, including cluster reduction, stopping, fronting, etc.



The distribution or organization of phonemes within a



Pierre Robin Sequence

A cluster of diseases that make breathing and feeding

challenging, including a cleft palate, small jaw and a

tongue that goes back toward the throat.


Postlingual Hearing Loss

A hearing loss that happens after a person’s

development of speech and language.



PPD-NOS stands for Pervasive Developmental

Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified.  This diagnosis is

given to people who are on the autism spectrum but

do not completely meet the criteria for another

spectrum disorder, such as autism or Asperger




The social use of language for communication.


Precipitating Factors

Factors that result in the start of a language or

communication problem.


Predisposing Factors

Factors that make a person more inclined to develop

an impairment related to communication or language.



Showing or encouraging a child to complete the

required task.



The melody of speech, including rate, rhythm,

cadence and stress.


Receptive Language

A person’s ability to understand spoken language.


Rhett’s Syndrome

A nervous system developmental disorder typically

diagnosed in early childhood.  It is characterized by

developmental reversals in expressive language and

abnormal hand use.


Secondary Behaviors

Secondary behaviors are behaviors a person who

stutters exhibits in response to the core behaviors.

These behaviors are developed in reaction to the

moment of stuttering.  Secondary behaviors can

include avoidance or escape behaviors,

circumlocution, using fillers, avoiding eye contact, etc.



Breaking down a sentence into words, a word into

syllables and a syllable into phonemes.



The content of language.



Skills that involve integration of sensory feedback as

well as motor behaviors.


Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Hearing loss that occurs because of a malfunctioning

of the inner ear or damage to the acoustic nerve.


Soft Palate

The part of the palate which is soft and flexible.  The

soft palate moves for swallowing, sucking and when

producing certain speech sounds.


Specific Language Impairment (SLI)

A language disorder that prohibits the mastery of

language skills in children who do not have hearing

loss or developmental delays.  It is the most common

childhood learning disability and there is no known



Spontaneous Recovery

Unassisted recovery from a disease, disorder or



Standard Deviation

A statistical measurement used to help show the

distance between a person’s score and the average

score using the standard bell curve.


Stickler Syndrome

A disorder that causes problems with vision, hearing

and joints.  People with this syndrome have very

prominent facial features and it has a high comorbidity

with Pierre Robin sequence.



The level at which a child can imitate a sound

presented to them.  The less intervention used, the

more stimulable the child is.



A stroke is caused by a blockage of an artery which

causes a disruption of blood to the brain.  Strokes are

caused in a variety of ways, including hemorrhage (an

artery bursts or leaks), thrombosis (a blood clot blocks

blood flow to the brain) and embolism (foreign

material flows in blood stream and obstructs the flow

of blood to the brain).  Strokes range in severity and

frequently cause neurological problems that can be

mild to severe.



A neurological disorder that interrupts a person’s

fluent flow of speech characterized by motor

discoordination of the articulators presented as by

core and secondary behaviors.



A secondary behavior of stuttering that occurs when a

person who stutters substitutes a word they really

want to say to another word with the same meaning.


Sustained Attention

The ability to remain on task for a predetermined

amount of time.



Rules for organizing and ordering words in a

sentence, including those for word order and

relationships, as well as sentence organization.


Tactile Defensiveness

An obvious dislike to being touched, or to a food,

fabric, or sensation that is usually accompanied by a

negative emotional response.



TBI stands for Traumatic Brain Injury, which is defined

as a blow to the head disrupting the normal function of

the human brain, which can range in severity from

“mild” (brief change in consciousness) to

“severe” (extended period of unconsciousness or



Theory of Mind

The idea that other people have minds, and that

people’s beliefs and intentions guide their behavior.


Tongue Thrust

When the tongue protrudes during the process of

swallowing, instead of the upward and backward

motion of typical swallowing.


Treacher Collins Syndrome

A condition affecting the development of bones and

tissues in the face.  Some people born with this

syndrome are born with a cleft palate and defects in

the middle ear as well.