Phoneme (definition)

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Phonemes are sounds that make a contrast in meaning. For example, in English /p/ and /b/ are different phonemes, because they distinguish the words pat and bat. Variant pronunciations of a sound are called allophones. At the ends of words in English, aspirated stops such as such as [pʰ] and unaspirated stops such as [p] are allophones of the same phoneme /p/, because words like top can be pronounced as either [tʰɑpʰ] or [tʰɑp]. Traditionally phonemes are written between slashes (/ /) and allophones are transcribed in square brackets [ ] .

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  • Crystal, David (1997). Dictionary of linguistics and Phonetics. Malden: Blackwell