The symbol that represents a speech sound and is a unit of an alphabet is called a letter.
Letters are used in writing to represent the sounds of a language, and they are arranged in specific orders to form words and sentences. Each language has its own set of letters, and different writing systems can have varying numbers and shapes of letters. The English alphabet, for example, consists of 26 letters, while the Greek alphabet has 24 letters, and the Arabic alphabet has 28 letters.
What is grapheme?
A grapheme is the smallest unit of a writing system that carries meaning and can be used to distinguish one word from another. It is a visual representation of a phoneme, which is a basic unit of sound in a language. Graphemes can be single letters or combinations of letters, and they can be used to represent different sounds in different languages.
For example, in English, the letter “b” represents the sound /b/, while in Spanish, the same letter can represent the sound /β/ (which is a different sound, pronounced between /b/ and /v/). Additionally, the combination of letters “ch” in English represents the sound /tʃ/, while in Spanish, the same combination can represent the sound /tʃ/ or /ʃ/, depending on the word.
Graphemes can be written in different fonts or handwriting styles, but they still represent the same basic unit of meaning. In some writing systems, such as Chinese, each character represents a syllable or a whole word, and there are thousands of different characters in the language.
Difference Between Letter and Grapheme
While the terms “letter” and “grapheme” are often used interchangeably, they do have slightly different meanings.
A letter is a basic unit of an alphabet that represents a speech sound. It is a written symbol that represents a sound or a combination of sounds in a language. For example, the letter “a” represents the sound /æ/ in words like “cat” and “hat”, while the letter “e” represents the sound /ɛ/ in words like “bed” and “met”. In an alphabet, each letter represents a distinct sound or set of sounds.
A grapheme, on the other hand, is a basic unit of a writing system that represents a meaningful unit of language, such as a sound or a combination of sounds. Graphemes can be single letters or combinations of letters, as well as symbols such as punctuation marks and diacritics that modify the sound of a letter. For example, the word “cat” has three graphemes: the letter “c”, the letter “a”, and the letter “t”.
So while a letter is a type of grapheme, not all graphemes are letters. Graphemes can also include other written symbols that do not represent speech sounds, such as punctuation marks, numerals, and symbols used in mathematical notation. Additionally, graphemes can be used in writing systems that do not have an alphabet, such as logographic systems like Chinese characters.