Definition of phoneme in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈfōnēm/


Any of the perceptually distinct units of sound in a specified language that distinguish one word from another, for example p, b, d, and t in the English words pad, pat, bad, and bat. Compare with allophone1.
Example sentences
  • They can distinguish between any two sounds which represent distinct phonemes in any of the world's languages.
  • Whereas the five classic vowel letters match the five vowel phonemes of a language like Spanish, they are insufficient to distinguish the much larger number of vowel phonemes of English.
  • He was able to complete items requiring deletion of syllables and initial phonemes but had difficulty with items requiring deletion of final phonemes or phonemes within a word.



Pronunciation: /fōˈnēmik/
Example sentences
  • Research confirms that the manipulation of phonemes (e.g., phonemic awareness) is important in the reading process and allows students a clearer understanding of the alphabetic principle.
  • Under the No Child Left Behind Act, state and local proposals for reading instruction must include five components: phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency, and text comprehension.
  • Several researchers have concluded that directed instruction in various aspects of phonological processing, and phonemic awareness in particular, may be necessary to prevent early reading failure in some children.


Pronunciation: /fōˈnēmiks/
Example sentences
  • The comments section has some interesting thoughts - including people who moot changing English spelling to reflect the phonetics or phonemics.
  • At least since Pike's seminal work on the phonemics of tone languages, designers of orthographies have grappled with this problem.
  • Time is what ultimately binds individual letters into words, without which there would be only phonemics.


Late 19th century: from French phonème, from Greek phōnēma 'sound, speech', from phōnein 'speak'.

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