Yesterday I posted about a new product I made, which focuses on spelling with digraphs. I thought I'd share some things I learned while developing the product!
Digraphs are the hardest part about learning to read and write the English language. We expect sounds and letters to have a one-to-one correspondence: for each sound in a word, there will be one matching letter. But this doesn't happen with digraphs!
Strictly speaking, a digraph occurs when two letters work together to represent one sound. When we’re thinking about phonemes, we tend to think of digraphs as the letter combinations that make a completely new sound, such as the following:
CH = /ch/ = chip
SH = /sh/ = ship
TH = /th/ = think
WH = /wh/ or /hw/ = what
But in spelling, ANY two letters that work together to represent ONE sound is a digraph - such as the OE in "toe" or the SC in "scissors."
(FYI, the instinct for many is to pronounce “digraph” as “die-uh-graph” or “die-ah-graph,” but there’s no middle syllable added. Think die-cast toys - or from science, bi-ped, an animal that walks on two legs: die-graph.)
Look at the following words with CVe patterns:
Technically a CVe pattern contains a digraph - although the vowel and the “magic E” (or “silent E”) aren’t next to each other, they are still working together to make the vowel long. The letters representing one vowel pattern are marked here in red: make, bike, home.
(If you’re curious, this is called a “discontinuous digraph.”)
Patterns like IGH for a long I or EAR for the /ir/ sound in “earth” are technically trigraphs - groups of three letters working together to represent one sound. (Being that di- is two and tri- is three, this makes sense.)
And apparently “quadrigraph” describes the OUGH in “though” or the AUGH in “daughter” - now we’ve all learned something new! For continuity, however, I choose to call any set of two or more letters that represent one sound a digraph.