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phoneme


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(linguistics) The smallest sound unit in a language. Meaningless in themselves, phonemes are the building-blocks of language. Changing one for another changes the meaning of a word, as with /p/ and /b/ in pat and bat. The English language has only about forty or fifty phonemes but these can be combined to generate hundreds of thousands of words. See alsoarticulation; phonology; comparemorpheme.

Subjects: Arts and Humanities — Science and Mathematics.


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