Language Arts with Lyn Stone (St Monica's Wodonga)

The Elements

Written and spoken words are created in a variety of ways. Here are the basic elements:

1. Phonemes (in speech) – Each individual speech sound is called a phoneme. It is the smallest possible unit of sound. It is classified by its unique combination of voice (did the vocal cords vibrate?), manner (how did the leave the articulatory mechanism?), and placing (which part of the mechanism was involved?).

Phonemes can be transcribed across languages and dialects using symbols from the International Phonetic Alphabet. Awareness of individual phonemes in words is a critical skill for reading and writing.

2.   Graphemes (in writing) – Each phoneme has a default grapheme, that is, the letter or letter strings expected to represent that sound. When sounds aren’t represented by their default grapheme as expected, there is always a reason. Structured literacy serves to explain why in ways that children can remember and use.

3. Syllables (in speech and writing) – Words consist of one or more syllables. They are identified by perceiving the number of impulses the voice makes. The peaks where the impulses are strongest  (peak sonority) are the nuclei of each syllable. Mostly, these are vowel sounds, since the vocal tract is open, but peak sonority can also be perceived in syllables containing syllabic consonants, such as /l/ or /m/ e.g. bottle and rhythm.

4. Bases (in speech and writing) – All words consist of at least one base. To these bases, other elements can be added. Some bases, however, are unalterable e.g. of and this.

5. Compounds – Words formed by adding two or more free bases together e.g. sunset and flowerpot, or a free/bound base combination, e.g. phonological.


In the Language Arts approach, it is important to know the definition of, and be able to identify in words, the basic elements known as phonemes, graphemes, syllables, bases and compounds.

Please match the element to its definition.

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