digplanet beta 1: Athena
Share digplanet:


Applied sciences






















Not to be confused with Graphene, Graphane, or Graphyne.

A grapheme is the smallest unit used in describing the writing system of any given language,[1] originally coined by analogy with the phoneme of spoken languages. A grapheme may or may not carry meaning by itself, and may or may not correspond to a single phoneme. Graphemes include alphabetic letters, typographic ligatures, Chinese characters, numerical digits, punctuation marks, and other individual symbols of any of the world's writing systems.

The word grapheme is derived from Greek γράφω gráphō ("write"), and the suffix -eme, by analogy with phoneme and other names of emic units. The study of graphemes is called graphemics.

A grapheme is an abstract concept, similar to a character in computing. A glyph is a specific shape that represents that grapheme, in a specific typeface. For example, the abstract concept of "the Arabic numeral one" is a grapheme, which would have two different glyphs (allographs) in the fonts Times New Roman and Helvetica.


Graphemes are often notated within angle brackets, as a, B, etc.[2] This is analogous to the slash notation (/a/, /b/) used for phonemes, and the square bracket notation used for phonetic transcriptions ([a], [b]).


Main article: Allography

In the same way that the surface forms of phonemes are speech sounds or phones (and different phones representing the same phoneme are called allophones), the surface forms of graphemes are glyphs (sometimes "graphs"), namely concrete written representations of symbols, and different glyphs representing the same grapheme are called allographs. Hence a grapheme can be regarded as an abstraction of a collection of glyphs that are all semantically equivalent.

For example, in written English (or other languages using the Latin alphabet), there are many different physical representations of the lowercase letter "a", such as a, ɑ, etc. But because the substitution of any of these for any other cannot change the meaning of a word, they are considered to be allographs of the same grapheme, which can be written a. Italic and bold face are also allographic.

There is some disagreement as to whether capital and lower-case letters are allographs or distinct graphemes. Capitals are generally found in certain triggering contexts which do not change the word: When used as a proper name, for example, or at the beginning of a sentence, or all caps in a newspaper headline. Some linguists consider digraphs like the sh in ship to be distinct graphemes, but these are generally analyzed as sequences of graphemes. Ligatures, however, such as æ, are distinct graphemes, as are various letters with distinctive diacritics, such as ç.

Types of graphemes[edit]

The principal types of phonographic graphemes are logograms, which represent words or morphemes (for example Chinese characters, the ampersand & representing the English word and, Arabic numerals); syllabic characters, representing syllables (as in Japanese kana); and alphabetic letters, corresponding roughly to phonemes (see next section). For a full discussion of the different types, see Writing system § Functional classification.

Not all graphemes are phonographic (write sounds). There are additional graphemic components used in writing, such as punctuation marks, mathematical symbols, word dividers such as the space, and other typographic symbols.

Correspondence between graphemes and phonemes[edit]

Main article: Phonemic orthography

As mentioned in the previous section, in languages that use alphabetic writing systems, the graphemes stand in principle for the phonemes (significant sounds) of the language. In practice, however, the orthographies of such languages entail at least a certain amount of deviation from the ideal of exact grapheme–phoneme correspondence. A phoneme may be represented by a multigraph (sequence of more than one grapheme), as the digraph sh represents a single sound in English (and sometimes a single grapheme may represent more than one phoneme, as with the Russian letter я). Some graphemes may not represent any sound at all (like the b in English debt), and often the rules of correspondence between graphemes and phonemes become complex or irregular, particularly as a result of historical sound changes that are not necessarily reflected in spelling. "Shallow" orthographies such as those of standard Spanish and Finnish have relatively regular (though not always one-to-one) correspondence between graphemes and phonemes, while those of French and English have much less regular correspondence, and are known as deep orthographies.

Multigraphs representing a single phoneme are normally treated as combinations of separate letters, not as graphemes in their own right. However, in some languages a multigraph may be treated as a single unit for the purposes of collation; for example, in a Czech dictionary, the section for words that start with ch comes after that for h.[3] For more examples, see Alphabetical order: Language-specific conventions.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Coulmas, F. (1996), The Blackwell's Encyclopedia of Writing Systems, Oxford: Blackwells, p.174
  2. ^ The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, second edition, Cambridge University Press, 1997, p. 196
  3. ^ Zeman, Dan. "Czech Alphabet, Code Page, Keyboard, and Sorting Order". Old-site.clsp.jhu.edu. Retrieved 31 March 2012. 

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grapheme — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.

816 news items

Test Tube

Test Tube
Mon, 23 Nov 2015 07:00:00 -0800

Although scientists aren't sure what causes it, when a synesthete experiences a stimuli, it activates several neural pathways at the same time, causing them to have very unique sensory experiences. Grapheme-Color Synesthesia is the most common: this is ...
The Hindu
Sun, 22 Nov 2015 05:52:30 -0800

The researchers viewed the response of osteoblast cells (bone precursors) to grapheme-based polymer that was made as a 2-D structure (a plane surface) and a 3D structure with protruding nanoparticles. In 2-D scaffolds, the osteoblast cells spread at ...

Washington Post

Washington Post
Tue, 10 Nov 2015 09:52:12 -0800

Potentially, Nye says, “you could gently push saltwater through this grapheme membrane and get freshwater on the other side with much much lower energy costs than we're able to do now with reverse osmosis or especially distillation.” The book also ...
Economic Times
Mon, 16 Nov 2015 21:16:48 -0800

On Monday, Umesh V Waghmare, chairman and professor, Theoretical Sciences unit at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research ( JNCASR), was awarded the Infosys Prize 2015 for his innovative use of computer simulations and ...


Tue, 10 Nov 2015 16:20:48 -0800

Hey you've probably heard of grapheme at this point But check out this graphine that can move. Chinese researchers published a report in Science Advances this week about a graphine oxide based paper that can change its shape when exposed to infrared ...

Australian Mining

Australian Mining
Mon, 16 Nov 2015 14:52:30 -0800

Talga Resources has signed a Collaboration Agreement with Tata Steel UK to jointly explore opportunities across graphene supply, processing and development. Talga, which is operating what is arguably the world's highest grade NI 43-101 resource for ...

The Australian Financial Review

The Australian Financial Review
Thu, 29 Oct 2015 06:30:00 -0700

Not only a compelling rendering of the @ grapheme into 3D, it's also a savvy commentary on our immersion in Twitter culture. In fact, Brodie says, "I often see tweets from friends who spot my work around the world, in sci-fi movies and corporate offices.".

Northern Californian

Northern Californian
Fri, 20 Nov 2015 04:33:45 -0800

The University of Glasgow researchers have a way to produce grapheme in excess without spending much. The material is traditionally produced through 'chemical vapour deposition', which involves combining different gases inside a reaction of chamber.

Oops, we seem to be having trouble contacting Twitter

Support Wikipedia

A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia. Please add your support for Wikipedia!

Searchlight Group

Digplanet also receives support from Searchlight Group. Visit Searchlight