Clusters vs. Blends

Clusters vs. Blends

Practicing at the Top of License as Speech Language Pathologists: The Importance of Using Correct Terminology

In the realm of speech therapy, the precision of language not only aids in clear communication but also reflects our expertise and professionalism. In an Instagram Live on the Bjorem Speech Instagram page, Dr. Kelly Farquharson, a prominent voice in the field of speech language pathology, emphasized if we want to stand out as professionals we need to embrace the culture of language that is appropriate for our field. Using terms such as "blends" and "clusters" the right way is one way to do this.

What are Blends?

When we talk about blends, we're referring to the action of blending any sounds together. A blend involves combining multiple phonetic elements, including consonants and vowels. Think of the way we can put various fruits into a blender to result in one smoothie, the same way we can blend different sounds together to make one word. See the example below for how we combine the 5 sounds together to make the word, "spring":

 

What Are Clusters?

Clusters, on the other hand, specifically refer to two or more consonant sounds occurring in sequence without intervening vowels. Consider the word "spring." The segment /spr/ is a cluster. The sounds /s/, /p/, and /ɹ/ are not blended into a new sound but are articulated distinctly within the flow of the word. This is analogous to how individual flowers in a bouquet maintain their separate identities despite being part of a collective arrangement. We are not combining the sounds to create a new sound or word. See below:

 

Why Precision Matters and How it Elevates Our Practice

Using precise terminology such as "cluster" rather than "blend" when discussing a group of 2 or more consonants is the more accurate term, as Dr. Farquharson points out, because anything can technically be described as a blend, but not everything is a cluster. Adopting accurate and specific language in our professional practice is more than a matter of semantics—it is a reflection of our commitment to excellence and precision in the field of speech language pathology. We hope this helps you to distinguish between blends and clusters. Using the correct terminology helps us all reach our goal to practice at the top of our license!

 

 To see this all in video format, please check out this video here

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