Despite there being just 26 letters in the English language there are 44 unique sounds, also known as phonemes. The 44 sounds help distinguish one word or meaning from another. Various letters and letter combinations known as graphemes are used to represent the sounds.
The 44 English sounds fall into three categories: consonants, vowels and digraphs, the latter being two letter blends. Below is a list of the 44 phonemes along with their common spelling and some examples. Note that there is no such thing as a definitive list of phonemes because of accents, dialects and the evolution of language itself. Therefore you may discover lists with more or less than these 44 sounds.
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|1||/b/||b, bb||bug, bubble|
|2||/d/||d, dd, ed||dad, add, milled|
|3||/f/||f, ff, ph, gh, lf, ft||fat, cliff, phone, enough, half, often|
|4||/g/||g, gg, gh,gu,gue||gun, egg, ghost, guest, prologue|
|5||/h/||h, wh||hop, who|
|6||/j/||j, ge, g, dge, di, gg||jam, wage, giraffe, edge, soldier, exaggerate|
|7||/k/||k, c, ch, cc, lk, qu ,q(u), ck, x||kit, cat, chris, accent, folk, bouquet, queen, rack, box|
|8||/l/||l, ll||live, well|
|9||/m/||m, mm, mb, mn, lm||man, summer, comb, column, palm|
|10||/n/||n, nn,kn, gn, pn||net, funny, know, gnat, pneumonic|
|11||/p/||p, pp||pin, dippy|
|12||/r/||r, rr, wr, rh||run, carrot, wrench, rhyme|
|13||/s/||s, ss, c, sc, ps, st, ce, se||sit, less, circle, scene, psycho, listen, pace, course|
|14||/t/||t, tt, th, ed||tip, matter, thomas, ripped|
|15||/v/||v, f, ph, ve||vine, of, stephen, five|
|16||/w/||w, wh, u, o||wit, why, quick, choir|
|17||/y/||y, i, j||yes, onion, hallelujah|
|18||/z/||z, zz, s, ss, x, ze, se||zed, buzz, his, scissors, xylophone, craze|
|19||/a/||a, ai, au||cat, plaid, laugh|
|20||/ā/||a, ai, eigh, aigh, ay, er, et, ei, au, a_e, ea, ey||bay, maid, weigh, straight, pay, foyer, filet, eight, gauge, mate, break, they|
|21||/e/||e, ea, u, ie, ai, a, eo, ei, ae, ay||end, bread, bury, friend, said, many, leopard, heifer, aesthetic, say|
|22||/ē/||e, ee, ea, y, ey, oe, ie, i, ei, eo, ay||be, bee, meat, lady, key, phoenix, grief, ski, deceive, people, quay|
|23||/i/||i, e, o, u, ui, y, ie||it, england, women, busy, guild, gym, sieve|
|24||/ī/||i, y, igh, ie, uy, ye, ai, is, eigh, i_e||spider, sky, night, pie, guy, stye, aisle, island, height, kite|
|25||/o/||o, a, ho, au, aw, ough||octopus, swan, honest, maul, slaw, fought|
|26||/ō/||o, oa, o_e, oe, ow, ough, eau, oo, ew||open, moat, bone, toe, sow, dough, beau, brooch, sew|
|27||/oo/||o, oo, u,ou||wolf, look, bush, would|
|28||/u/||u, o, oo, ou||lug, monkey, blood, double|
|29||/ū/||o, oo, ew, ue, u_e, oe, ough, ui, oew, ou||who, loon, dew, blue, flute, shoe, through, fruit, manoeuvre, group|
|30||/y//ü/||u, you, ew, iew, yu, ul, eue, eau, ieu, eu||unit, you, knew, view, yule, mule, queue, beauty, adieu, feud|
|31||/oi/||oi, oy, uoy||join, boy, buoy|
|32||/ow/||ow, ou, ough||now, shout, bough|
|33||/ə/ (schwa)||a, er, i, ar, our, or, e, ur, re, eur||about, ladder, pencil, dollar, honour, doctor, ticket, augur, centre, chauffeur|
|34||/ã/||air, are, ear, ere, eir, ayer||chair, dare, pear, where, their, prayer|
|35||/ä/||a, ar, au, er, ear||math, jar, laugh, sergeant, heart|
|36||/û/||ir, er, ur, ear, or, our, yr||bird, term, burn, pearl, word, journey, myrtle|
|37||/ô/||aw, a, or, oor, ore, oar, our, augh, ar, ough, au||paw, ball, fork, poor, fore, board, four, taught, war, bought, sauce|
|38||/ēə/||ear, eer, ere, ier||ear, steer, here, tier|
|39||/üə/||ure, our||cure, tourist|
|40||/zh/||s, si, z||treasure, division, azure|
|41||/ch/||ch, tch, tu, ti, te||chip, watch, future, action, righteous|
|42||/sh/||sh, ce, s, ci, si, ch, sci, ti||sham, ocean, sure, special, pension, machine, conscience, station|
|43||/th/||th(voiced), th(unvoiced)||thongs, leather|
|44||/ng/||ng, n, ngue||ring, pink, tongue|
Knowing that phonemic awareness is a critical skill and being able to effectively teach it are two different things. Below are three
1) Essential Strategies for Teaching Phonemic Awareness from the book 50 Reading Strategies for K-8 Learners from Sage Publications. A helpful resource for educators of younger readers.
2) Nessy Reading and Spelling from Nessy Learning is a comprehensive reading software program which makes learning phonemic awareness fun through colorful animated games. Progress is tracked
and difficulty adjusted automatically.
3) The Phonological Awareness website features helpful classroom activities for rhyming, segmenting, blending and other kinds of phoneme manipulation.
The difficulty dyslexics have in distinguishing phonemes is most clearly revealed in their poor spelling. While any phoneme can be a challenge, some are more problematic than others. The vowels and digraphs generally present more difficulty than the consonants, although any sound can present difficulty depending on the particular word and phrase in which it resides.
Good luck and good reading!
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