Digraph (linguistics)

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In graphematics, digraph denotes two letters that stand for a sound . For more than two letters, other Greek numerals are used as prefixes, for example trigraph or tetragraph.


In a broader sense, a digraph consists of two graphemes that can be assigned to a phoneme (e.g. the consonant letter combination ch in German corresponds to the phoneme / χ / or / ç /). A letter combination that can be assigned to a phoneme combination is also referred to as a digraph if its components are not clearly and separately related to the components of the letter combination (e.g. ch in English for the phoneme combination / tʃ / - it would not make sense to assign the c to the / t / and the h to the / ʃ /).

Sometimes the term is not used in this phonographic sense either . In a phonemunabhängigen graphematic approach, but (from distributional assumes reasons), that a grapheme of several letters ( graph / Glyphs may be made) (and z. B. ch and qu as respectively a grapheme rated) is directed graph as a label for uses such a grapheme (without saying anything about the assignment to phonemes).

In a narrower sense, digraphs are the pairs of letters that are considered to be so closely related in a language that they are treated like one letter even when sorted alphabetically, for example . However, this use of the term can differ from the first. The occurrences in the alphabetical sorting do not guarantee that the corresponding sound is a phoneme (or a phoneme combination in the above sense). ( One can argue, for example, whether in Croatian is a digraph in the first sense. That also depends on the assumed definition of the phoneme. If one evaluates / d im / in Croatian as two phonemes, the components of the phonetic and unambiguously assign letter combination -  d to / d / and ž to / ʒ / -, and is just as little a digraph as e.g. dr .)

Trigraph, tetragraph, ...

Accordingly, the term trigraph (from Greek tri- , "three", see Greek numerals ) is used for a combination of three letters (e.g. sch in German and Swedish for the phoneme / ʃ /, ieh in German for / iː / ). The series can be continued at will: Tetragraph ( tetra- "four"), z. B. ough in English for / ɔː / in brought , zsch for / tʃ / in proper names such as Zschopau , Pentagraph ( penta- “five”), for example tzsch for / tʃ / in proper names such as Nietzsche etc. As a heptagraph ( hepta- “seven ”) Can be used to describe the shch for the transcription of the Russian grapheme“ щ ”if one assumes that in modern Russian this grapheme is spoken as a phoneme / ʃʲː / (formerly / ʃʲtʃʲ /).

Use in romanization

Digraphs and multiple combinations are also used for the transliteration and transcription of other languages, such as zh, sh in English for the "sch" sounds ( fricatives ) / ʒ, ʃ /.

In addition, they are often used to represent diacritical marks (cf. Czech. Č, ř with Polish. Cz, rz ) if these are not available for technical reasons.

The Latin letters are generally used for transcriptions , also because of the spread of the ASCII character set in electronic data processing (English latinisation or romanisation ). Other writing systems also use an analogous procedure, such as the traditional Chinese phonetic transcription Fǎnqiè (e.g. Chinese  都 宗 , Pinyin dū-zōng for the phonetic dōng of the character ).


Examples of multi-graphs (and other letter combinations):

  1. Multi-graphs (for one sound) whose pronunciation cannot be explained synchronously or only partially from the pronunciation of the individual letters,
  2. Multi-graphs (for one sound), the pronunciation of which results from a general pronunciation rule for the combination of individual letters that applies in the respective language (productive, potentially series-forming rule),
  3. Multi-graphs and other special letter combinations for combinations of sounds (for diphthongs , affricates and others), the pronunciation of which does not result from a general pronunciation rule applicable in the respective language for the combination of the individual letters.

(Multiple graphs / letter combinations with their own place in the alphabet are set in italics .)

eu, ng, ny
dh, gj, ll, nj, rr, sh, th, xh, zh
Danish before 1948 and in proper names
1. ch , sch, ph, ng, ie, ou, (only as a substitute for ä, ö, ü, ß and in proper names :) ae, oe, ue, ss or sz; 2. bb, dd, ff,…, ss, ck, tz, dt, aa, ee, oo, ah, uh, eh, ih,…, th, gh, ie,…, (only in unstressed syllable :) el , em, en, he; 3. äu, ei, eu, chs, dsch, (only in proper names :) zsch and tzsch, (only at the beginning of the stem :) sp and st, (only in the inside of the word before vowel :) ti, (only at the unstressed end of the word :) ig
Indonesian / Malay
ng, ny
Croatian , Serbian (Latin script)
, lj , nj
au, ou, ei, ij , ui, oe, ie, sj, sp, st
ch, cz, sz, rz, dz, dż, dź, dzi
ei, éi, ai, oi, ói, ui, eu, éu, au, io, ãe, ão, ch, lh, nh, gu
1. sj, tj, sch, ng, (only the stem beginning :) dj, gj, hj, kj, lj, skj, stj, (only the top front of the trunk e, i, y, a, ö :) sk (only inside the word before vowel, except i :) ti, si, ssi; 2. bb, dd, ff,…, ck, rd, rl, rn, rs, rt; 3. (only between vowels and at the end of the word :) gn
ch, dz, dž
, ch
ch , ll
eu, ng, ny
1. gy, ly, ny, ty, sz, zs, (only in proper names :) eö; 2. bb, cc, dd, ff,…, ggy, ssz,…, (only in proper names :) cz; 3. cs
gʻ, oʻ, ch, sh

Character encoding

For reasons of compatibility, Unicode has assigned its own codes to a few Latin digraphs:

position U + 01C6 U + 01C9 U + 01CC U + 01F3
Representation as a digraph dž lj nj dz
Single letters lj nj dz

Web links

Wiktionary: Digraph  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Trigraph  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Tetragraph  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations