What are the combinations of the consonants ch, sh, th, wh, ph called in the professional literature jargon? (I'm asking about the consonants that are represented by two letters).

  • I guess you mean linguistics, not literature. – Federico Poloni Oct 20 '18 at 8:30

They are called consonant digraphs.

Consonant blends (also called consonant clusters) are groups of two or three consonants in words that makes a distinct consonant sound, such as "bl" or "spl."

Consonant digraphs include bl, br, ch, ck, cl, cr, dr, fl, fr, gh, gl, gr, ng, ph, pl, pr, qu, sc, sh, sk, sl, sm, sn, sp, st, sw, th, tr, tw, wh, wr. Some trigraphs are nth, sch, scr, shr, spl, spr, squ, str, thr.

There are also digraphs that produce a distinct vowel sound. Some examples are: ai, au, aw, ay, ea, ee, ei, eu, ew, ey, ie, oi, oo, ou, ow, oy. (source)

  • Hm, I would still distinguish between some of these, that are just the sounds of the two consonants “flowed together,” as in bl or gr or whatever, while others are distinctly separate (“single”?) sounds different somewhat from the sounds of the constituent letters, as in ch, ng, ph, sh, and th. Would there be a term, perhaps, that is specific to the latter? – KRyan Oct 20 '18 at 3:26
  • @KRyan To add, I'd say that the grapheme combination ch doesn't represent a single phoneme, but a phoneme combination /tʃ/ (though I do not find good minimal pairs to demonstrate this out of the blue). Still. neither does c usually correspond to /t/, nor h to /ʃ/, so I guess ch still deserves to be grouped with ng, ph, sh, th, gh, sc and perhaps a few more, but we do have a different phenomenon from bl etc. – Hagen von Eitzen Oct 20 '18 at 9:18
  • 1
    @Hagen I would argue that the /tʃ/ affricate is actually a single phoneme, because it is not treated as separate. It isn't perceived at t + sh, but as its own sound. And, when you do force t and sh together (e.g. "it should,") it is not perceived as ch. As such, I propose the term to be "phonemic consonant digraph." – trlkly Oct 20 '18 at 10:42

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