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the smallest distinctive unit of written speech, corresponding to the phoneme in oral speech—a, b, and so on. The system of graphemes of a particular writing system makes up the system’s alphabet.
The grapheme must be distinguished from the letter, which corresponds to a sound of speech (A, a, a, and so on), and from a graphic combination (that is, a collection of letters), which is regularly used in the particular writing system to designate a certain phoneme (for example, ch represents the phonemes [#x222B;], [x], and [t∫] in the French, German, and English writing systems, respectively). The term “grapheme” was introduced in 1912 by I. A. Baudouin de Courtenay.
REFERENCESBaudouin de Courtenay, I. A. Ob otnoshenii russkogo pis’ma krusskomu iazyku. St. Petersburg, 1912.
Volotskaia, Z. M., T. N. Moloshnaia, and T. M. Nikolaeva. Opyt opisaniia russkogo iazyka v ego pis’mennoi forme. Moscow, 1964.
A. G. SHITSGAL
grapheme(1) See also graphene.
(2) A displayed or printed letter of the alphabet with all of its accent marks in place. See glyph.