phoneme definition, phoneme meaning | English dictionary

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      n     (Linguistics)   one of the set of speech sounds in any given language that serve to distinguish one word from another. A phoneme may consist of several phonetically distinct articulations, which are regarded as identical by native speakers, since one articulation may be substituted for another without any change of meaning. Thus /p/ and /b/ are separate phonemes in English because they distinguish such words as pet and bet, whereas the light and dark /l/ sounds in little are not separate phonemes since they may be transposed without changing meaning  
     (C20: via French from Greek phonema sound, speech)  
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See also:

phone, phonemic, phon, phonometer

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