Difference Between Digraph and Diphthong

Digraph vs Diphthong
 

Between digraph and diphthong, there is a difference in the way we form them. Digraph and diphthong refer to two different terms that are studied in linguistics. A diphthong can be defined as a vowel where the individual has to produce two different sounds even though it is a single syllable. On the other hand, a digraph can be defined as a pair of letters which stand for a single phoneme. A digraph can be either a vowel digraph or else a consonant digraph. But, in the case of diphthongs, they are always vowels. Through this article let us examine the differences between these two terms with examples.

What is a Diphthong?

A diphthong is also known as a gliding vowel. A diphthong can be understood as a syllable where the individual has to produce two different sounds. The individual moves from one vowel sound to another without a syllabic break. This moving from one vowel sound to another is called gliding. For example, observe the following words.

Mouse

Waist

Noise

House

In each case, notice how there are two vowel sounds that operate in a gliding motion even though a syllabic break cannot be observed. These are called diphthongs. Some of the mostly used diphthongs in the English language are ai, aw, oy, ei, ou.

Diphthongs usually consist of two main parts. They are the,

  • Nucleus
  • Off-glide

The nucleus refers to the main vowel sound that has been stressed in the word. This captures the centre of the vowel sound. The off-glide, on the other hand, is the vowel sound that is not stressed. It usually flows off.

Difference Between Digraph and Diphthong

ou in ‘mouse’ is a diphthong

What is a Digraph?

In the English language, a digraph can be understood as a pair of letters which stand for a single phoneme (A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in a language). There are both consonant digraphs and also vowel digraphs as well. Some of the most used vowel digraphs are ai, ay, ea, ee, ei, ey, ie, oa, oo, ow and ue. Now, let us pay attention to a few vowel digraphs.

Vowel Digraphs

Digraph Phoneme Example
ai [e] rain
ee [i] greet
ou [u] through

Now, let us move on to some consonant digraphs. Some examples for consonant digraphs are ch, ck, ng, ph, sh, th, wh.

Consonant Digraphs

Digraph Phoneme Example
ck [k] pack
kn [n] knife
ph [f] telephone

As you can see in the examples shown above, in both consonant and also vowel digraphs, it is the pair of letters or else its combination that brings about a single sound.

In language education, especially for small children, it is very important to pay attention to digraphs so that the child can produce the correct sound in pronunciation.

 Digraph vs Diphthong

ph in ‘telephone’ = digraph

What is the difference between Digraph and Diphthong?

• Definitions of Digraph and Diphthong:

• A diphthong can be defined as a vowel where the individual has to produce two different sounds even though it is a single syllable.

• A digraph can be defined as a pair of letters which stand for a single phoneme.

• Mouth Position:

• When making a diphthong sound, the mouth moves from one position to another position.

• When making a digraph sound, the mouth only moves to a single position.

• Gliding Process:

• In a diphthong, a gliding process takes place.

• Gliding process cannot be seen in a digraph.

• Result:

• In a diphthong, two vowel sounds are created.

• In a digraph, a pair of letters works together and creates a single sound,

 

Images Courtesy:

  1. Wood mouse by Rasbak (CC BY-SA 3.0)
  2. Classic Telephone by Uberprutser (CC BY-SA 3.0)