The Speech Lab Dictionary

Ever wonder what definitions/terminologies a professional dealing with communication disorders uses? Here’s a sneak peek into some commonly used terms :


Aphasia: It is the result of an acquired lesion (not inborn) in one or more areas of the brain that are concerned with comprehension and formulation of language, i.e, understanding and expressing language. Stroke is one of the common causes of aphasia in adults and can be acquired in children due to infections, convulsions, trauma leading to an insult(damage) in the brain. The damage caused by stroke can affect either the understanding, expression or both understanding & expression of language that is required for communication.

Ankyloglossia: Commonly known as “Tongue-Tie”, is a condition present at birth. This condition restricts the various movements of the tongue. The amount of interference tongue-tie causes for clear speech varies from person to person.

Alaryngeal Speech: It is the speech produced other than the use of the larynx(voice box).

Articulation: It refers to the preciseness and clarity in which a speech sound is said by itself, in words, sentences, paragraphs and/or conversation speech. These speech sounds develop as a child is growing and eventually the child can say all the speech sounds clearly. However, when the child is unable to say the sound clearly that should have occurred at a particular age and has passed the same, it results in an Articulation Disorder.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: It is a neurodevelopment disorder marked by persistent or ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity or impulsivity that gets in the way of daily life or typical development.

Audiology: The branch of science dealing with hearing and hearing disorders covering all age ranges, from new borns till geriatric (aged) persons. An audiologist is a person who evaluates, provides management, prevention and education.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC): It is an umbrella term that includes the communication methods in order to enhance or replace with speech with writing, use of communication device or boards that consist pictures and/or words, for those who have difficulty in comprehending and expressing speech. This can help the person with marked difficulty in speech to communicate more effectively.

Autism Spectrum Disorder: It is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by deficits in  social communication and social interaction and the presence of restrictive and repetitive behaviours.

Cerebral Palsy: It is a neurogenic speech impairment (neuro- related to the nervous system/brain) caused by dysfunction of the motor control.

Cochlea: It is a part of the inner ear that receives the sound from the middle ear, which contains the sensory organ of hearing that helps in conduction of the sound to the brain via a neuronal pathway. Damage to the cochlea or any part of the neuronal pathway can result in sensorineural hearing loss in both forms, congenital and acquired.

Cochlear Implant: It is a surgically implanted device, which is placed in the inner ear and that connects with a mic placed on the outer ear with a transmitter(coil) and enables a person to hear sounds. That is, a part of the device is fit inside the ear via surgery and is connected to the other part of the device on the outside with a coil magnet. This is generally carried out when a person has a very high degree of hearing loss, i.e., profound hearing loss.

Cognition: The mental action or set of mental abilities of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experiences and senses.

Congenital: Something that is inborn or innate in nature.

Cleft Lip and Palate: Cleft is a fissure or an opening. Cleft of Lip and Palate can occur together or separately is a congenital deformity caused due to abnormal facial development during gestation (period of pregnancy). It can occur on one side or on both the sides of the face.

Dementia: It is an acquired, persistent impairment of intellectual functioning with compromise in at least 3 of the following spheres of mental activity: memory, language, emotion, personality, visuospatial skills, and cognition.

Developmental Dysarthria: It is a speech disorder resulting from damage to the immature nervous system, characterised by weakness, paralysis or incoordination of the speech musculature.

Dysarthria: It is a motor speech disorder resulting from impaired movement of the muscles used for speech production including the lips, tongue, vocal folds and/or diaphragm and is either acquired or progressive in adults.

Dysphagia: Commonly known as feeding and swallowing disorders, that shows difficulty in the movement of swallowed material (solids, semi-solids and/or liquids) in the oral, pharynx, oesophageal and/or gastroesophagal areas. It can occur in infants and adults.

Fluency: It refers to the aspect of continuity, smoothness, rate and effort with which speech is said. Two main types of common fluency disorders that are observed are namely Stuttering and Cluttering. Stuttering, the most common type of fluency, refers to disruption while speaking and this block can occur in the form of repetition of sound/words/phrases, in prolonging the sound and block (gets stuck). Cluttering, is another type of fluency disorder that is characterised by perceived rapid and/or irregular speech rate which disrupts the fluency of the speech.

Hearing Loss: The decrease in hearing due to inborn incompetencies, acquired due to infections or injury, or degeneration of the hair cells, making it difficult for one to hear and understand speech or sounds.

Language: It is a set of codes defined in particular for the process of receptive and expressive communication.

Larynx: Commonly known as the voice box, it consists of vocal cords that vibrate when air from the lungs via the same resulting in production of voice.

Learning Disability: Also referred to as specific learning disabilities, is an umbrella term that covers a range of neurologically based disorders in learning and various degrees of severity in such disorders. They manifest as difficulty in reading, spelling, writing or understanding language, use of spoken language, poor mathematical and organisational skills, clumsiness in handwriting and/or storing and retrieving information from the Short term or Long Term Memory.

Mental Retardation: Also known as Intellectual Disability, involves impairments of general mental abilities that impact adaptive functioning in various domains such as communication skills, comprehension and use of language skills, understanding of emotions, memory, personal care, making friends, social judgements, reasoning, knowledge and memory. Depending on the degree of damage in the brain, the severity of these symptoms is seen and intervention varies accordingly.

Parkinsonism: It is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. In terms of Speech-Language Pathology (SLP), there is a marked discrepancy in speech and as the condition worsens, there will be changes in the speech and dysphagia can also be seen.

Pragmatics: It refers to the social language skills we use in our daily interaction with others. They include what we say, how we say, our body language, initiates and/or repairs his/her conversations correctly as required, making oneself understood and whether it is appropriate in a given situation or not.When either of these skills are affected, it is known as Pragmatic Language Impairment (PLI) or  Social Communication Disorder (SCD).

Primary Progressive Aphasia: It is a form of cognitive impairment that involves a progressive loss of language function. It is caused by degeneration (deteriorates/worsens with time) in the parts of the brain that are responsible for speech and language.

Professional Voice User: A person who relies majorly on the use of voice in order to earn his/her living. Professions such as actors, singers, journalists, professors, politicians, sales person fall under this category.

Prosody: Also known as suprasegmental aspect of speech, is the pattern, emphasis, and rhythm and tone with which speech is said.

Semantics: It is the branch of linguistics concerned with the meaning. It is a part of language.

Speech-Language Pathology: The branch of science dealing with speech, language, and swallowing disorders(dysphagia) in newborns, infants, children, and adults. A Speech Language Pathologist is a person who evaluates, provides management, prevention and education about the Speech, Language and Swallowing Disorders.

Syntax: It is the set of rules, principles and processes that govern the structure of a sentence in a given language.

Traumatic Brain Injury: It is a form of non-degenerative (does not deteriorate with time) acquired brain injury resulting from an external physical force to the head or other mechanisms of displacement of the brain within the skull.

Voice: It is the sound produced due to the vibration of the vocal cords, which further modifies in the oral cavity until the speech is said. A good voice is generally characterised by good pitch, adequate loudness and a great quality of voice.