A grapheme designates the atomic unit in written language. Graphemes include letters, Chinese ideograms, numerals, punctuation marks, and other symbols.
In a phonological orthography a grapheme corresponds to one phoneme. In spelling systems that are non-phonemic — such as the spellings used most widely for written English — multiple graphemes may represent a single phoneme. These are called digraphs (two graphemes for a single phoneme) and trigraphs (three graphemes). For example, the word ship contains four graphemes (s, h, i, and p) but only three phonemes, because sh is a digraph. An example of a trigraph is the tch in itch.
Different glyphs can represent the same grapheme. For example, the minuscule letter a can be seen in two variants, with a hook at the top, and without. Not all glyphs are graphemes; for example the logogram ampersand (&) represents the word and, which contains three phonemes.
Last updated: 08-10-2005 09:08:25
Last updated: 08-17-2005 03:46:21