Phonology

Digraphs and their combination

Consonants and Vowels digraph

Digraphs

Certain letters combined form a single sound and when this occurs it is called a digraph.Traditionally these combinations were considered letters of the alphabet, but in the last spelling regulations of 2001 the distinction is made between letters and digraphs. The SAR distinguishes between the simple graphic signs (the 27 letters of the alphabet) and the five digraphs. This normative change aims to match the universal Latin alphabet .

The digraph is called the two-letter sequence that represents a single sound . The digraphs are not considered letters, since a letter is a grapheme, that is, a simple graphic sign. Instead, the digraph is a sequence of graphemes or letters

In English there are also digraphs and they are especially important for pronouncing words correctly. With the digraph ch the words chair or cheese are formed, with sh fish or dish is formed, with ph you write phone or elephant and with th you form thread or thumb.

Consonant digraphs

Consonant digraphs are groups of two consonants that make a single sound. Examples of consonant digraphs are:

ch as in chat
sh as in ship
th as in thick
wh as in what
ph as in phone
ck as in sock

Vowel digraphs

These are groups of two letters – at least one of which is a vowel – that make a single sound, for example, the letters ow in the word ‘slow.’

When teachers teach phonics, they tend to look at one sound and then show children the various ways this can be made and written down as a grapheme (a combination of letters).

For example:

true, food, crew all have the same /oo/ sound, represented by a different digraph (highlighted in bold) each time.

Day, rain and they also all contain the same sound (/ai/), but are represented by a different digraph each time.

What is a split digraph?

This is where a digraph, such as ae, ie, oe, ee, ue is ‘split’ by a consonant, for example:

  • In the word pie, you have a digraph made up of ie.
  • in the word pine, the digraph has been split by the letter n to make a new word, ‘pine’.

Split digraphs are represented like this: a_e, i_e, o_e, e_e, u_e.

When a digraph is split by a consonant it becomes a split digraph.  For example:

  • wrote – the ‘oe’ here make one sound. The ‘oe’ digraph is split by the ‘t’
  • lake – the ‘ae’ here make one sound. The ‘ae’ digraph is split by the ‘k’.
  • complete – the ‘ee’ here make one sound. The ‘ee’ digraph is split by the ‘t’.

 

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