Is ar a digraph? Is er a digraph? What I have found online is mixed. If er isn’t a digraph then the number of phonemes in butcher is 5, if it is then there are 4.
Please register or login to add your comments to this article.
Comments (3)
1Tuesday, 09 November 2010 19:48
MattB

Hello Shelley! (and fellow orthographists!)

To do graphemic analysis of <butcher> I first want to test if this is a base or a complex word. A quick look at the origin in my Oxford does not resolve the question fully for me.

ORIGIN Middle English : from an Anglo-Norman French variant of Old French bochier, from boc ‘he-goat,’ probably of the same ultimate origin as buck 1 .

Etymonline offers this citation...
butcher
c.1300, from Anglo-Norm. boucher, from O.Fr. bochier "butcher, executioner," probably lit. "slaughterer of goats" (12c., Mod.Fr.boucher), from bouc "male goat," from Frank. *bukk (see buck (n.1)) or Celtic *bukkos "he-goat." Related: Butchered; butchering. Figurative sense of "brutal murderer" is attested from 1520s. The verb is recorded from 1560s.


Although I don't think of a <butcher> as one who "butches" I wanted to see if there was any connection between these words.  There does seem to be at least an etymological connection!

butch |bətʃ| informal
adjective
manlike or masculine in appearance or behavior, typically aggressively or ostentatiously so.
noun
a mannish lesbian, often contrasted with a more feminine partner. Compare with femme.
ORIGIN 1940s: perhaps an abbreviation of butcher .

However, it turns out that the morphological analysis of <butcher> as a base or as a base with a suffix <butch + er> is not pertinent to your question. Either way <er> occurs within a morpheme.

In my pronunciation of <butcher> I cannot detect two distinct phonemes associated with the <er>, so I am inclined to describe <er> as a digraph. I was asking a similar question to my linguist friend Gina this weak. I wanted to know if she analysed <ear> as a trigraph as in <fear> or even the base <ear>!  

For a long time I considered this an <ea> digraph representing the 'long <e>' (in the IPA /i/) followed by an /r/, but I was unsure as I know that people talk about "<r> controlled vowels".
While I'm not sure there is a definitive answer, my current working hypothesis is that <ear> is a trigraph for the second phoneme in a word like <fear>, which is the same phoneme you would also use in the word <beer>, so <eer> is another trigraph.

Your hypothesized <er> grapheme strikes me as even more clearly a digraph. I only feel one phone in this phoneme associated with this letter string. The only other option I could see would be to consider <r> a grapheme and the <e> as some non-graphemic marker, but I see no reason to hypothesize that.

I hope that this analysis of mine may is not more confusing than helpful! I could have just answered that I think <er> is a digraph, but I wanted to share my thinking to show you and my other orthographic friends. If there are important flaws in my reasoning, I suspect Gina or Melvyn can help me and thus the rest of us when we run into such questions in the future.

2Tuesday, 09 November 2010 19:51
MattB
I’m satisfied with <er> as a digraph — in non-rhotic varieties of English (where they tend not to pronounce final <r>, as in England), a word like sister would be pronounced /sɪstə/, so it would appear that that second syllable has a single phoneme.

Fun, fun!  Keep up the good work!

Gina
3Wednesday, 10 November 2010 19:41
MattB

My two cents... I had the same trouble with <ar>, <or>, <er> etc.. Melvyn sent me a wonderful document on Rhoticism which I am sharing because I think it's helpful. (Melvyn, I hope you don't mind)


We must talk about the usefulness of teaching "the schewa" or neutral vowel. How do we know when to choose the digraph <ar> <or> and <er>. In <doctor> the <or> it only makes sense if we look at related words like <doctorial>
Other examples: singular - singularity popular - popularity history - historical separate - to pull apar



Advanced Search

Member Log-in

WARNING: Do not try to log in more than TWO times in 30 min. -- if you try to log in unsuccessfully 3 times in a half-hour, the security software assumes you're a hacker trying to break in and blocks you from the site.

To avoid spam, after you register, the system will send you an email with a link. You MUST click this link to complete registration. Then please send an email to the webmaster to let him know who you are so that he can approve your registration.