Phonetics (fun-etics) for children
In linguistics, a grapheme is the smallest functional unit of a writing system. There are two main opposing grapheme concepts. In the so-called referential conception, graphemes are interpreted as the smallest units of writing that correspond with sounds (more accurately phonemes). In this concept, the sh in the written English word shake would be a grapheme because it represents the phoneme ʃ. This referential concept is linked to the dependency hypothesis that claims that writing merely depicts speech. By contrast, the analogical concept defines graphemes analogously (comparable) to phonemes, i.e. via written minimal pairs such as shake vs. snake. In this example, h and n are graphemes because they distinguish two words. This analogical concept is associated with the autonomy hypothesis which holds that writing is a system in its own right and should be studied independently from speech. Summary:
1. A grapheme is the smallest unit of writing that form the sound of a word.
2. There are two concepts associated with graphemes.
One is analogous or comparable and the other is independent. In the comparable theory, it is believed that the letters or graphemes do not stand alone. Which would mean, graphemes are dependent on sounds or phenoms. In the independent concept, phenoms and graphemes must be studied as two separate sciences within linguistics or language (tongues) because a phenome can be expressed by various graphemes. (See Exhibit A below). Since sounds are independent of graphemes this is where the theory of independence is derived. Regardless of the graphemes, such as “ck” or “k”, both of them make the phenome or ‘K’ sound. Thus, sounds can be said to be independent of graphemes. But graphemes will always represent sounds / phenoms.