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Velar Fronting

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Velar fronting explained

Consider the word cup /kʌp/. This word begins with the velar plosive /k/ followed by the vowel /ʌ/ and finally by the bilabial plosive /p/. Rather than producing the velar consonant /k/ – at the back of the mouth – the child may produce a sound at the front of the mouth, such as the alveolar /t/ to yield /tʌp/. So, a sound made at the back of the mouth has been substituted by a sound made at the front of the mouth – this is fronting. The following diagram illustrates this process visually.

velar fronting image 1

Another example should consolidate our understanding. Consider the word gap /gæp/ being realized as /dæp/. Here the back velar consonant /g/ is substituted by the front consonant /d/.

velar fronting image 2

In both of the above examples, the child has fronted the velar consonant at the beginning of a syllable and has, therefore, demonstrated syllable-initial velar fronting. Further examples include the following. [NB: the velar nasal /ŋ/ does not appear in syllable-initial position in British English and so there are no examples of this being fronted in syllable-initial position.]












It is also possible to front velar consonants that appear in syllable-final position; this is known as syllable-final velar fronting, e.g.












In all of the examples presented so far the back velar consonants /k g ŋ/ have been substituted by front alveolar consonants /t d n/. This is, in fact, a common pattern of velar fronting in children, i.e.

velar → alveolar

However, we have already noted that the term fronting can apply to any back consonant being substituted by any front consonant. So, if a velar consonant is substituted by any consonant made at or in front of the alveolar ridge this would also be an example of velar fronting. An example would be a child realizing the word go /gəʊ/ as /bəʊ/. As the /b/ is a front consonant substituting for a back velar consonant, this is also an example of velar fronting.

A point to note is that when a child fronts a velar consonant the substituting front consonant typically retains the same voicing as the velar consonant it replaces. So if a voiceless /k/ is fronted, the substituting front consonant is also typically voiceless. We saw this in the example of cup /kʌp/ being realized as /tʌp/: here the voiceless /k/ is substituted by the correspondingly voiceless /t/. Similarly, if /g/, which is the voiced velar plosive, is fronted then the substituting front consonant is also typically voiced. This occurred in our example of gap /gæp/ being realized as /dæp/: here the voiced back consonant /g/ is substituted by the correspondingly voiced front consonant /d/.

It is also apparent that as well as the voicing typically remaining the same as the substituted velar consonant, the manner of the new consonant is also typically consistent with that of the substituted velar consonant. For example, the velar plosives /k/ and /g/ are typically substituted by another plosive sound made further forwards in the mouth, such as /p/, /t/, /b/ or /d/, and the velar nasal /ŋ/ by a front nasal sound such as /m/ or /n/, e.g.




/wɪp/ or /wɪt/



/wɪb/ or /wɪd/



/wɪm/ or /wɪn/


Velar fronting is customary in typically developing children between the ages of 2;00-3;00 years.

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