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A digraph or digram (from the Greek: δίς dís, "double" and γράφω gráphō, "to write") is a pair of characters used in the orthography of a language to write either a single phoneme (distinct sound), or a sequence of phonemes that does not correspond to the normal values of the two characters combined.

Some digraphs represent phonemes that cannot be represented with a single character in the writing system of a language, like the English sh in ship and fish. Other digraphs represent phonemes that can also be represented by single characters. A digraph that shares its pronunciation with a single character may be a relic from an earlier period of the language when the digraph had a different pronunciation, or may represent a distinction that is made only in certain dialects, like the English wh. Some such digraphs are used for purely etymological reasons, like rh in English. Digraphs are used in some Romanization schemes, like the zh often used to represent the Russian letter ж. As an alternative to digraphs, orthographies and Romanization schemes sometimes use letters with diacritics, like the Czech š, which has the same function as the English digraph sh.

In some languages' orthographies, digraphs (and occasionally trigraphs) are considered individual letters, which means that they have their own place in the alphabet and cannot be separated into their constituent graphemes when sorting, abbreviating or hyphenating words. Examples of this are found in Hungarian (cs, dz, dzs, gy, ly, ny, sz, ty, zs), Czech (ch), Slovak (ch, dz, ), Albanian (dh, gj, ll, nj, rr, sh, th, xh, zh) and Gaj's Latin Alphabet (lj, nj, dž). In Dutch, when the digraph ij is capitalized, both letters are capitalized (IJ).

Digraphs may develop into ligatures, but this is a distinct concept: a ligature involves a graphical combination of two characters, as when a and e are fused into æ.

Modern Slavic languages written in the Cyrillic alphabet make little use of digraphs apart from ⟨дж⟩ for /dʐ/, ⟨дз⟩ for /dz/ (in Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Bulgarian), and ⟨жж⟩ and ⟨зж⟩ for the uncommon Russian phoneme /ʑː/. In Russian, the sequences ⟨дж⟩ and ⟨дз⟩ do occur (mainly in loanwords) but are pronounced as combinations of an implosive (sometimes treated as an affricate) and a fricative; implosives are treated as allophones of the plosive /d̪/ and so those sequences are not considered to be digraphs. Cyrillic has few digraphs unless it is used to write non-Slavic languages, especially Caucasian languages.

Arabic scriptDaighi tongiong pingim, a transcription system used for Taiwanese Hokkien, includes or that represents /ə/ (mid central vowel) or /o/ (close-mid back rounded vowel), as well as other digraphs.

In Yoruba:

Modern Slavic languages written in the Cyrillic alphabet make little use of digraphs apart from ⟨дж⟩ for /dʐ/, ⟨дз⟩ for /dz/ (in Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Bulgarian), and ⟨жж⟩ and ⟨зж⟩ for the uncommon Russian phoneme /ʑː/. In Russian, the sequences ⟨дж⟩ and ⟨дз⟩ do occur (mainly in loanwords) but are pronounced as combinations of an implosive (sometimes treated as an affricate) and a fricative; implosives are treated as allophones of the plosive /d̪/ and so those sequences are not considered to be digraphs. Cyrillic has few digraphs unless it is used to write non-Slavic languages, especially Caucasian languages.

Arabic script

Because vowels are not generally written, digraphs are rare in abjads like Arabic. For example, if sh were used for š, then the sequence sh could mean either ša or saha. However, digraphs are used for the aspirated and abjads like Arabic. For example, if sh were used for š, then the sequence sh could mean either ša or saha. However, digraphs are used for the aspirated and murmured consonants (those spelled with h-digraphs in Latin transcription) in languages of South Asia such as Urdu that are written in the Arabic script by a special form of the letter h, which is used only for aspiration digraphs, as can be seen with the following connecting (kh) and non-connecting (ḍh) consonants:

Urdu connecting   non-connecting
digraph: کھا /kʰɑː/ ڈھا In the Armenian language, the digraph ու ⟨ou⟩ transcribes /u/, a convention that comes from Greek.

Georgian

The Georgian alphabet uses a few diacritics to write other languages. For example, in Svan, /ø/ is written ჳე ⟨we⟩, and /y/ as ჳი ⟨wi⟩.

Greek

Modern Greek has the following digraphs:

  • αι (ai) represents /e̞/
  • ει (ei) represents /i/
  • οι

    They are called "diphthongs" in Greek; in classical times, most of them represented diphthongs, and the name has stuck.

    • γγ (gg) represents /ŋɡ/ or /ɡ/
    • τσ represents the affricate /ts/
    • τζ represents the affricate /dz/
    • Initial γκ (gk) represents /ɡ/
    • Initial μπ (m

      Ancient Greek also had the "diphthongs" listed above although their pronunciation in ancient times is disputed. In addition Ancient Greek also used the letter γ combined with a velar stop to produce the following digraphs:

      • γγ (gg) represents /ŋɡ/
      • γκ (gk) represents /ŋɡ/
      • γχ (gkh) represents /ŋkʰ/

      Tsakonian has a few additional digraphs: ρζ /ʒ/ (historically perhaps a fricative trill), κχ /kʰ/, τθ Tsakonian has a few additional digraphs: ρζ /ʒ/ (historically perhaps a fricative trill), κχ /kʰ/, τθ /tʰ/, πφ /pʰ/, σχ /ʃ/. In addition, palatal consonants are indicated with the vowel letter ι, which is, however, largely predictable. When /n/ and /l/ are not palatalized before ι, they are written νν and λλ.

      In Bactrian, the digraphs ββ, δδ, γγ were used for /b/, /d/, /ŋg/. In Bactrian, the digraphs ββ, δδ, γγ were used for /b/, /d/, /ŋg/.

      In the Hebrew alphabet, תס‎ and תש‎ may sometimes be found for צ/ts/. Modern Hebrew also uses digraphs made with the ׳‎ symbol for non-native sounds: ג׳//, ז׳/ʒ/, צ׳//; and other digraphs of letters when it is written without vowels: וו‎ for a consonantal letter ו‎ in the middle of a word, and יי‎ for /aj/ or /aji/, etc., that is, a consonantal letter י‎ in places where it might not have been expected. Yiddish has its own tradition of transcription and so uses different digraphs for some of the same sounds: דז/dz/, זש/ʒ/, טש//, and דזש‎ (literally dzš) for //, וו/v/, also available as a single Unicode character װ‎, וי‎ or as a single character in Unicode ױ/oj/, יי‎ or ײ/ej/, and ײַ/aj/. The single-character digraphs are called "ligatures" in Unicode. י‎ may also be used following a consonant to indicate palatalization in Slavic loanwords.

      Indic

      Most Indic scripts have compound vowel diacritics that cannot be predicted from their individual elements. That can be illustrated with Thai in which the diacritic เ, pronounced alone /eː/, modifies the pronunciation of other vowels:

      single vowel sign: กา /kaː/, เก /keː/,<

      In addition, the combination รร is pronounced /a/ or /am/, there are some words in which the combinations ทร and ศร stand for /s/ and the letter ห, as a prefix to a consonant, changes its tonic class to high, modifying the tone of the syllable.

      Inuit

      Inuktitut syllabics adds two digraphs to Cree:

      rk for q
      qai, ᕿ qi, ᖁ qu, ᖃ qa, ᖅ q

      and

      ng for ŋ
      ng

      The latter forms trigraphs and tetragraphs.

      Japanese

      Generally, a digraph is simply represented using two characters in Unicode.[2] However, for various reasons,

      Generally, a digraph is simply represented using two characters in Unicode.[2] However, for various reasons, Unicode sometimes provides a separate code point for a digraph, encoded as a single character.

      The DZ and IJ digraphs and the Serbian/Croatian digraphs DŽ, LJ, and NJ have separate code points in U

      The DZ and IJ digraphs and the Serbian/Croatian digraphs DŽ, LJ, and NJ have separate code points in Unicode.

      See also Ligatures in Unicode.

      See also