Login

Phoneme: Definition, Segmentation & Examples

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Interpreting Literary Meaning: How to Use Text to Guide Your Interpretation

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 What Is a Phoneme?
  • 0:34 Phoneme Segmentation
  • 2:13 Importance of Phonemes
  • 3:00 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Login or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kara Wilson

Kara Wilson is a 6th-12th grade English and Drama teacher. She has a B.A. in Literature and an M.Ed, both of which she earned from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Phonemes are tiny units of sound in speech. When phonemes are combined, they can make up words. In this lesson, we will discuss what phonemes are, how to segment them in words and why they are important.

What is a Phoneme?

A phoneme is a unit of sound in speech. A phoneme doesn't have any inherent meaning by itself, but when you put phonemes together, they can make words. Think of when adults try to get a baby to say his or her first word. They often coax him or her to sound out the beginning of a word by repeating that sound, or phoneme, over and over by saying something like, 'M, m, m' for 'Mommy.' The 'm' sound, often written as /m/, is an example of a phoneme.

Phoneme Segmentation

You can segment, or break apart, any word to recognize the sounds or phonemes in that word. In order to figure out how many phonemes a word has, it's best to say the word out loud to focus on the sounds that make up the word rather than looking at the letters on paper. For example, if you say the word 'sun,' you will hear that there are three sound units, or phonemes, in that word: /s/ /u/ /n/.

Look at the image below and notice how the man is able to segment the word 'table' into its phonemes with the consonant /t/, the vowel /a/ and the consonant blend /bl/. Consonant blends are two consonants, such as the letters 'b' and 'l' put together to create one sound, or phoneme.

Phonemes can be letters or consonant blends
Graphic demonstrating the segementation of table in phonemes

There are about 40 phonemes, or sound units, in English, thanks to the many ways that the 26 letters of the alphabet can be used and arranged. For instance, the phoneme or sound /f/ can be spelled using the letters f, ff, or ph.

Reading teachers must be able to easily segment and count phonemes in order to help children connect letters to phonemes through phonics, which is a teaching method used to help people learn to read and pronounce words by recognizing the sounds that letters and letter groups make. Counting phonemes can actually be challenging in English because there are so many ways to make different sounds. For example, the word 'match' has five letters but only three phonemes: /m/ /a/ /ch/. The 't' in match is silent and the 'ch' is a consonant blend.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register for a free trial

Are you a student or a teacher?
I am a teacher
What is your educational goal?
 Back

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 10 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 95 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Support