I am trying to draw a diagram to show relationship between these terms but I am not sure what is correct position of them is diagram. Can you please help to do that?

What is relation of following term (is-a, has-one, has-many, is-consist-of, is-a-type-of, ...):

morpheme, word, phoneme, phone, allophone, allomorph, grapheme, glyph, allograph, letter, (and any other missed related term)

  • Note that is-a and others are rather mathematical terms, so it is important to know how you are using them. So if you don't mind sharing what you have so far, I believe more people would be glad to improve it. Others (like me) may wish to learn from your diagram as well. Jan 15, 2013 at 10:24

1 Answer 1


"Etic" terms (signify a surface form, as realized, without claiming any underlying significance)

  • phone - a speech sound, e.g. [b]

  • glyph - a written sign, which may or may not signify anything by itself, e.g. ⟨g⟩, ⟨ɡ⟩, ⟨ˆ⟩ (a diacritic)

    • diacritic - a glyph that is placed on or attached to another glyph, e.g. acute accent, vowel signs in Hebrew and Arabic, the diaeresis diacritic ⟨¨⟩

"Emic" terms (signify an equivalence class of linguistic entities, so inherently language-specific)

  • phoneme - a distinctive class of speech sounds, e.g. English /t/

  • morpheme - smallest semantically significant unit in a language

  • grapheme - smallest significant distinguishable unit in a writing system. Types:

    • letter - a single element of a writing system that (in principle) represents a phoneme or phoneme sequence, e.g. English ⟨t⟩, Japanese ⟨ゆ⟩ (represents the sequence /ju/), Ugaritic ⟨𐎄⟩ (vowels not indicated). Letters may consist of multiple glyphs; for example, ⟨ü⟩, consisting of ⟨u⟩ and the diaeresis diacritic, is a distinct letter in Estonian (where it represents /y/), but is not a letter in Spanish (where it represents the same sound as ⟨u⟩, the diacritic indicating that it is not silent).

      • Digraph, trigraph, tetragraph, ...: sequences of letters that are used to represent a sound other than the sequence of sounds indicated individually, e.g. English ⟨sh⟩ representing /ʃ/, Japanese ⟨しゃ⟩ representing /sja/
    • logogram or logograph - represents a morpheme or word, e.g. the Mandarin copula ⟨是⟩; ⟨&⟩ 'and', ⟨@⟩ 'at', ⟨$⟩ 'dollar' in English

    • ideogram or ideograph - represents an concept, e.g. ⟨上⟩ 'up' in Chinese/Japanese; digits like ⟨8⟩ 'eight'; ⟨♡⟩ 'love'; the no symbol ⟨ ⃠⟩; the red octagonal stop sign

      • pictogram or pictograph - an ideogram consisting of a pictorial representation of its referent, e.g. ⟨木⟩ 'tree' in Chinese/Japanese, ⟨💩⟩ 'pile of poo', many emoticons, astronomical symbols like ⟨☽⟩ 'waxing crescent moon'

Terms signifying relationships between "emic" and "etic" terms:

  • allophone - e.g. "In Spanish, The phones [b] and [β̞] are allophones.", or "The phone [β̞] is an allophone of the phoneme /b/."

  • allomorph - e.g. "The Latin-derived prefixes in-, im-, il-, ir-, ... are allomorphs.", "The English plural suffix has the allomorphs -/z/, -/s/, and -/ɪz/."

  • allograph - e.g. "⟨g⟩ and ⟨ɡ⟩ are allographs of the letter G; some fonts use each form, without affecting meaning."

Other terms

  • word - ambiguous. Generally, refers to a relatively small unit wrt some linguistic phenomenon. Different sorts of words include:

    • orthographic word - a sequence of characters written together, typically separated from other words with spaces or punctuation

    • phonological or prosodic word - a sequence of syllables whose boundaries affect some phonological process. May be larger or smaller than an orthographic word. For example, German and Russian devoice obstruents that come at the end of a phonological word. Many languages have vowel harmony that stops at word boundaries. Many languages require each phonological word to have exactly one primary stress, possibly at a fixed position in the word.

    • semantic word - the smallest semantically or pragmatically significant unit of a language that can stand on its own. The smallest unit of syntax.

    • lexeme - a unit of vocabulary, such as "eat", comprising the set of inflected forms a word can take, such as "eat", "eats", "ate", "eating", "eaten", (excluding derived words like "eater" or "eatery")

      • citation form, dictionary form, headword, or lemma - the form of a lexeme conventionally chosen to represent the lexeme, such as "eat".
  • The word allograph has an unrelated meaning describing the relationship between sound and orthography. Allographs are letters (or sequences of letters) that represent the same sound in some writing system. For example, allographs of /k/ in English include ⟨k⟩ in king, ⟨c⟩ in can, ⟨ck⟩ in sack, ⟨ch⟩ in character, ⟨q⟩ in quit, ⟨kh⟩ in khan, ⟨cqu⟩ in lacquer, and so on.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.