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 a 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]).

Glyphs and allographs[edit]

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.
1389 videos foundNext > 

What is a grapheme?

This tutorial by PhonicBooks explains the term 'grapheme' and demonstrates how graphemes spell sounds in words. This is a useful presentation aimed at ...

Grapheme - phoneme correspondences with the phonics teaching toolkit: 'ough' words

While phonemes can be associated with several graphemes, the reverse is also true: the same spelling can be associated with more than one sound.

Graphemes with Gestures

Practice Literacy MAP graphemes 1-26, 27-54, and 55-70.

Graphemes 27 to 54.m4v

Review graphemes 27 to 54.


VÍDEO EXCLUSIVO VICE Videoclip da faixa "Grapheme", do primeiro disco dos JUBA, o longa-duração Mynah. Realização / Edição: Ansel Yen Produção: ...

Phoneme Grapheme Mapping

Using sound boxes to map the phonics pattern.

Synesthesia - Numberphile

Talking about Grapheme to Colour Synesthesia with Alex from Bite Sci-Zed. Do you see numbers as colours? Leave a comment. Check Alex's channel at ...

DJ Spooky- 10 Grapheme

Songs Of A Dead Dreamer.

Phase 2 grapheme recognition

This is a video clip from the DfES Letters and Sounds Programme (2007) used to teach children to read in many schools. This clip shows children learning and ...

Phase 3 Grapheme recall and making words

This is a video clip from the DfES Letters and Sounds Programme (2007) used to teach children to read in many schools. This clip shows a teacher helping ...

1389 videos foundNext > 

786 news items

New Statesman

New Statesman
Wed, 26 Aug 2015 22:16:46 -0700

In May this year, during her presentation at the Hay-on-Wye philosophy and music festival How the Light Gets In, which I attended because I have grapheme-colour synaesthesia, Brogaard detailed some of the problems she has come across examining the ...


Fri, 28 Aug 2015 09:52:30 -0700

Over time, the association becomes automatic similar to how a letters are associated with colors in grapheme-color synesthesia. You experience this effect in your mind's eye, which means that thinking of one concept triggers the thought of another concept.

Yahoo News Canada (blog)

Yahoo News Canada (blog)
Fri, 28 Aug 2015 10:31:37 -0700

The most common form of the phenomenon is grapheme-colour synesthesia, where people see colours and patterns when thinking about letters or numbers. Another variation is colour-auditory synesthesia, or chromesthesia, meaning that voices or sounds ...


Thu, 20 Aug 2015 12:46:38 -0700

Recently, while experimenting inside the labs of Rice University, scientists found that laser-induced grapheme flecked with tiny metal salts took on properties of noble metals like platinum. First, a flexible and porous graphene film is made by ...

The Engineer

The Engineer
Wed, 12 Aug 2015 03:30:00 -0700

To be used in electronics, taking advantage of the materials excellent conductivity and ability to dissipate heat, graphene has to be in a form where current through it can be switched on and off; this entails producing strips of grapheme 10nm wide ...
The Australian
Fri, 07 Aug 2015 07:16:22 -0700

The process removes the dirty intermediate stages of crushing, grinding and milling. Metals of Africa (MTA, 5.4c) claims its Montepuez Central Project in Mozambique is capable of producing grapheme product “comparable to synthetically derived graphene, ...
Tue, 25 Aug 2015 01:15:15 -0700

The LPCVD system is designed to provide accurate process control and flexibility with user-safety features, and helps meet the demands of grapheme, carbon nanotubes and other 2D crystals research market. It incorporates an interlock system to safeguard ...


Wed, 12 Aug 2015 21:05:50 -0700

Attracted by the handsome potential, Der International Home Furnishing has decided to raise 2 billion yuan (US$313 million) in funds for investing in grapheme super lithium batteries and their materials. Prior to this, BYD announced a plan on June 3 to ...

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