A simplified procedure for determining whether two sounds represent the same or different phonemes

Unit of sound that can distinguish one word from another in a particular language.

- Phoneme

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Way in which a word or a language is spoken.

A conversation in American Sign Language

Phones which play the same role are grouped together into classes called phonemes; the study of these is phonemics or phonematics or phonology.


Branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sign.

A top-down view of the larynx.
A waveform (top), spectrogram (middle), and transcription (bottom) of a woman saying "Wikipedia" displayed using the Praat software for linguistic analysis.

Traditionally, the minimal linguistic unit of phonetics is the phone—a speech sound in a language—which differs from the phonological unit of phoneme; the phoneme is an abstract categorization of phones.


Smallest functional unit of a writing system.

Chinese characters (hànzì, 漢字) are morpho-syllabic. Each one represents a syllable with a distinct meaning, but some characters may have multiple meanings or pronunciations

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

Phone (phonetics)

Any distinct speech sound or gesture, regardless of whether the exact sound is critical to the meanings of words.

A top-down view of the larynx.

In contrast, a phoneme is a speech sound in a given language that, if swapped with another phoneme, could change one word to another.

International Phonetic Alphabet

Alphabetic system of phonetic notation based primarily on the Latin script.

The official chart of the IPA, revised in 2020
Typographic variants include a double-story and single-story g.
The authors of textbooks or similar publications often create revised versions of the IPA chart to express their own preferences or needs. The image displays one such version. All pulmonic consonants are moved to the consonant chart. Only the black symbols are on the official IPA chart; additional symbols are in grey. The grey fricatives are part of the extIPA, and the grey retroflex letters are mentioned or implicit in the Handbook. The grey click is a retired IPA letter that is still in use.
Phonetic transcriptions of the word international in two English dialects
Tongue positions of cardinal front vowels, with highest point indicated. The position of the highest point is used to determine vowel height and backness.
X-ray photos show the sounds.

The IPA is designed to represent those qualities of speech that are part of lexical (and to a limited extent prosodic) sounds in oral language: phones, phonemes, intonation and the separation of words and syllables.

Phonemic orthography

Chemistry, the central science, partial ordering of the sciences proposed by Balaban and Klein.

A phonemic orthography is an orthography (system for writing a language) in which the graphemes (written symbols) correspond to the phonemes (significant spoken sounds) of the language.


Codex claromontanus latin (The S.S. Teacher's Edition-The Holy Bible - Plate XXVIII)
Letters and words

In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with objective or practical meaning.


For the type of projection, see Orthographic projection.

Chemistry, the central science, partial ordering of the sciences proposed by Balaban and Klein.

Orthography is largely concerned with matters of spelling, and in particular the relationship between phonemes and graphemes in a language.

Tone (linguistics)

Use of pitch in language to distinguish lexical or grammatical meaning – that is, to distinguish or to inflect words.

Six Tones of Vietnamese
Vietnamese tones ngang "flat" tone, huyền "deep" tone or "falling" tone (À), sắc "sharp" or "rising" tone (Á), nặng "heavy" or "down" tone (Ạ), hỏi "asking" tone (Ả), ngã "tumbling" tone (Ã)
The tone contours of Standard Chinese. In the convention for Chinese, 1 is low and 5 is high. The corresponding tone letters are.

Languages that have this feature are called tonal languages; the distinctive tone patterns of such a language are sometimes called tonemes, by analogy with phoneme.

American Sign Language

Natural language that serves as the predominant sign language of Deaf communities in the United States and most of Anglophone Canada.

A sign language interpreter at a presentation
American Sign Language Convention of March 2008 in Austin, Texas
The ASL phrase "American Sign Language", written in Stokoe notation
The ASL phrase "American Sign Language", written in Sutton SignWriting
ASL signs for counting
Comparison of ASL writing systems. Sutton SignWriting is on the left, followed by Si5s, then Stokoe notation in the center, with SignFont and its simplified derivation ASL-phabet on the right.
Two men and a woman signing
The American manual alphabet and numbers

ASL signs have a number of phonemic components, such as movement of the face, the torso, and the hands.