Tonight, I got a great piece of mail from a player (sadly, I don’t know her screen name or I’d share it)! It was about one of our features that we like a lot: Digraphs… or um… uh… “Digrams” – yeah, that’s what we’ve meant all this time.
Here’s what she wrote:
I’m enjoying playing your game but wish to make a point of the use of the term “digraph” in the game. I am an elementary school teacher and have learned a lot about phonics over the years. A digraph isn’t just a pair of letters, but rather a pair of letters that make a unique sound – one you can’t make by simply saying the individual sounds of each letter in that pairing. For example, “sh” is a digraph because if you say the ‘s’ sound and then the ‘h’ sound, you wouldn’t make the ‘sh’ sound as in “shore”. Other examples of digraphs are ‘th’, ‘ch’ ‘wh’ ‘ea” as in ‘bread.” On the other hand, something like ‘tr’ is called a blend because when reading a word with that blend you are blending the ‘t’ sound and the ‘r’ sound together. Other examples of blends are ‘st’ ‘str’ ‘bl’ ‘br’ ‘fr’…..I thought you’d like to know.
I don’t remember where I first started calling two letter pairs Digraphs, but when we started making two letter pairs—I think I looked up this definition in Merriam Webster:
Definition of DIGRAPH
1 : a group of two successive letters whose phonetic value is a single sound (as ea in bread or ng in sing) or whose value is not the sum of a value borne by each in other occurrences (as ch in chin where the value is \t\ + \sh\)
2 : a group of two successive letters
It turns out that, even though definition 2 is what we are doing, the definition is missing the key subtly: A digraph is where two letters make a single sound. It turns out that there’s a more general form, call multigraphs, which contains trigraphs (tch as in watch) and tetragraphs (four letters like –ough as in through), and more.
So, we were ignorant, and we’ve learned. The correct term for what we are doing is “DIGRAM”. I had no idea that was even a word! And, while it is sometimes a synonym of Digraph, it comes with the shade of meaning that it’s two successive letters, and less about “making a single sound.”
Definition of DIGRAM
1 : a sequence of two adjacent letters or symbols.
So, we will be changing our “Digraph” category name to “Digram” this evening. And thank you, wise player, for smartening us up here! It’s our pleasure to learn things and make this game better.
— Black Snapper