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In , a grapheme is the smallest unit of a of any given language.Coulmas, F. (1996), The Blackwell's Encyclopedia of Writing Systems, Oxford: Blackwells, p.174 An individual grapheme may or may not carry meaning by itself, and may or may not correspond to a single of the spoken language. Graphemes include alphabetic letters, typographic ligatures, Chinese characters, , marks, and other individual symbols. A grapheme can also be construed as a graphical sign that independently represents a portion of linguistic material.Altmann, G., & Fengxiang, F. (Eds.). (2008). Analyses of script : properties of characters and writing systems Https://www.degruyter.com/view/product/34314

The word grapheme, coined in analogy with phoneme, is derived , and the suffix -eme, by analogy with and other names of . The study of graphemes is called .

The concept of graphemes is an abstract one and similar to the notion in of a character. By comparison, a specific shape that represents any particular grapheme in a specific is called a . For example, the grapheme corresponding to the abstract concept of "the Arabic numeral one" has two distinct glyphs () in the fonts Times New Roman and .


Notation
Graphemes are often notated within angle brackets, as , , etc.The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, second edition, Cambridge University Press, 1997, p. 196 This is analogous to the slash notation (/a/, /b/) used for , and the square bracket notation used for transcriptions (a, b).


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

For example, in written English (or other languages using the ), there are many different physical representations of the 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 . 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 in ship to be distinct graphemes, but these are generally analyzed as sequences of graphemes. Non-stylistic Ligatures, however, such as , are distinct graphemes, as are various letters with distinctive , such as .


Types of graphemes
The principal types of phonographic graphemes are , which represent words or (for example Chinese characters, the "&" representing the word and, ); characters, representing (as in Japanese ); and letters, corresponding roughly to (see next section). For a full discussion of the different types, see .

Not all graphemes are phonographic (write sounds). There are additional graphemic components used in writing, such as , mathematical symbols, such as the space, and other . Ancient often used silent to disambiguate the meaning of a neighboring (non-silent) word.


Relationship between graphemes and phonemes
As mentioned in the previous section, in languages that use writing systems, many of the graphemes stand in principle for the (significant sounds) of the language. In practice, however, the 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 or the h in all Spanish words containing the said letter), and often the rules of correspondence between graphemes and phonemes become complex or irregular, particularly as a result of historical that are not necessarily reflected in spelling. "Shallow" orthographies such as those of standard and 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 ; for example, in a dictionary, the section for words that start with comes after that for . For more examples, see .


See also
  • Character (computing)
  • Grapheme–color synesthesia
  • Grapheme–color
  • Sign (semiotics)

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