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Phoneme

It is essential that a child make a connection between letters and sounds; letters represent speech sounds and when combined forms words. Changing the letter results in a different sound and word.

Phoneme Definition

A phoneme is the smallest identifiable units of sound. When speaking, we combine phonemes to form a words. For example the word hen has 3 phonemes: /h/, /e/ & /n/. The word when also has 3 phonemes: /wh/, /e/ & /n/. Whereas the word went has 4 phonemes: /w/, /e/, /n/ & /t/.

Phoneme List

The English language contains 26 letters, yet there are approximately 44 sounds or phonemes. In addition, the same sound can be represented using different letters, e.g., the letter “c” often makes the /s/ sound, e.g. city. It is equally important to note, the same letters can yield a different sound, e.g., the /th/ sound in thin and these.

Vowel Phonemes

Short a Short e Short i Short o Short u
Long a Long e Long i Long o Long u
/aw/ Sound /air/Sound /ar/ Sound /er/ Sound /or/ Sound
/ear/ Sound /ou/ Sound /oi/ Sound Short oo Long oo


Consonant Phonemes

b ch
d f g
h
j k l m
n
ng p qu r
s
sh t th th
v
wh x y z
zh



Phonemes Examples

Each phoneme is listed below along with a few examples.

Phoneme: Short a sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
a Closed Syllable Rule cat, back, fast


Phoneme: Long a sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
a Open Syllable Rule April, baby, paper
a _ e Final E rule ate, name, plane
ai AI Digraph nail, rain, laid
ay AY Digraph day, say, pray


Phoneme: /aw/ Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
aw Broad O Vowels awful, lawn, saw
al Broad O Vowels all, talk, call
au Broad O Vowels August, because, daughter
o Broad O Vowels off, cost, moth


Phoneme: /air/ Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
ar R Vowels area, January, tiara
air R Vowels air, stair, chair
are R Vowels scare, aware, square


Phoneme: /ar/ Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
ar Bossy R car, art, large


Phoneme: /b/ Consonant Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
b /b/ Consonant Sound be, bat, tub


Phoneme: /k/ Consonant Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
c Hard C can, because, music
ck /k/ Consonant Sound back, sick, check
k /k/ Consonant Sound kind, like, book


Phoneme: /ch/ Consonant Digraph Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
ch CH Digraph church, chin, each
tch TCH Spelling catch, fetch, pitch


Phoneme: /d/ Consonant Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
d /d/ Consonant Sound did, study, red


Phoneme: Short e Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
e Closed Syllable Rule end, get, set
ea EA Spelling head, bread, meadow


Phoneme: Long e Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
e Open Syllable Rule even, zebra, me, we
ee EE Digraph eel, sleep, three
e EA Digraph eat, read, sea
y Y Vowels very, funny, city


Phoneme: /ear/ Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
ear R Vowels dear, hear, year
eer R Vowels beer, deer, steer


Phoneme: /er/ Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
er Bossy R her, better, shower
ir Bossy R girl, first, stir
ur Bossy R turn, purple, fur
or Bossy R work, labor


Phoneme: /f/ Consonant Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
f /f/ Consonant Sound for, after, off
ph PH Digraph / Silent Letter photo, trophy, graph


Phoneme: /g/ Consonant Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
g /g/ Consonant Sound go, goat, dog


Phoneme: /h/ Consonant Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
h /h/ Consonant Sound he, home, ahoy


Phoneme: Short i Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
i Closed Syllable Rule in, ill, big


Phoneme: Long i Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
i Open Syllable Rule I, item, pilot
i_e Final E Rule five, like, mine
igh IGH Spelling night, light, bright
y Y Vowels myself, by, deny


Phoneme: /j/ Consonant Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
j /j/ Consonant Sound just, enjoy, join
dge DGE Spelling edge, bridge, fudge,
g Soft G gym, danger, age


Phoneme: /l/ Consonant Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
l /l/ Consonant Sound like, below, tell


Phoneme: /m/ Consonant Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
m /m/ consonant sound me, men, him
mb MB Spelling comb, lamb


Phoneme: /n/ Consonant Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
n /n/ Consonant Sound no, many, on
kn KN Spelling / Silent Letters know, knife, knee


Phoneme: /ng/ Consonant Digraph Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
ng NG Digraph sing, going, long, song
n N Spelling think, sink, blink


Phoneme: Short O Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
o Closed Syllable Rule odd, hot, rock


Phoneme: Long O Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
o Open Syllable Rule open, go, zero
o_e Final E Rule hope, note, rose
oa OA Digraph oak, coat, toad
ow OW Digraph own, show, yellow


Phoneme: /ou/ Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
ow OW Diphthong down, cow, how
ou OU Diphthong out, hour, count


Phoneme: /oi/ Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
oy OY Diphthong oyster, toy, cowboy
oi OI Diphthong join, boil, void


Phoneme: /oo/ Short OO Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
oo Double OO Vowels look, wood, cookie
u Double OO Vowels full, push, sugar


Phoneme: /oo/ Long OO Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
oo Double OO Vowels soon, zoo, balloon
u Double OO Vowels truth, duty, tuna
u_e U_E Spelling June, flute, rule


Phoneme: /or/ Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
or Bossy R or, score, short, for


Phoneme: /p/ Consonant Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
p /p/ Consonant Sound put, people, up


Phoneme: /kw/ Q Consonant Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
qu /kw/ Consonant Blend Sound quick, quiet, square


Phoneme: /r/ Consonant Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
r /r/ Consonant Sound run, rest, very
wr Silent Letter write, wrote, wrong


Phoneme: /s/ Consonant Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
s /s/ Consonant Sound see, set, bus
c Soft C cent, cell, pencil


Phoneme: /sh/ Consonant Blend
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
sh SH Digraph she, show, ship
ss SS spelling mission, permission
ci CI spelling special,
ti TI spelling nation, portion
ch CH spelling chef


Phoneme: /t/ Consonant Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
t /t/ Consonant Sound to, city, not


Phoneme: /th/ Voiceless Consonant Digraph Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
th /th/ Voiceless Consonant Digraph thank, faith, with


Phoneme: /th/ Voiced Consonant Digraph Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
th /th/ Voiced Consonant Digraph the, then, brother


Phoneme: Short U Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
u Closed Syllable Rule up, cut, sun
a SCHWA about, idea, alike
e SCHWA item, diet, label
o SCHWA other, atom, money


Phoneme: Long U Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
u Open Syllable Rule future, menu, Utah
u_e Final E rule use, tube, cube
ew EW Spelling few, chew


Phoneme: /v/ Consonant Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
v /v/ Consonant Sound very, van, even


Phoneme: /w/ Consonant Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
w /w/ Consonant Sound we, away, want


Phoneme: /hw/ WH Digraph
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
wh WH Digraph when, white, wheat


Phoneme: /ks/ X Consonant Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
x /ks/ X Consonant Sound fox, fix, Texas


Phoneme: /y/ Consonant Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
y /y/ Consonant Sound you, year, yard


Phoneme: /z/ Consonant Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
z /z/ Consonant Sound zero, zoo, lazy
s S Spelling does, is, please


Phoneme: /zh/ Sound
Letter/s Rule and/or Sound Grouping Examples
s /zh/ Sound treasure, measure
s S Spelling does, is, please



Source: Fry, E.B., Ph.D. & Kress, J.E., Ed.D. (2006). The Reading Teacher’s Book of Lists 5th Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

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