The concept of the ‘default’ choice

The term ‘default’ is familiar from computing discourse.

default       a preselected option adopted by a computer program or other mechanism when no alternative is specified by the user or programmer

Choice of the default grapheme

When we talk of a phoneme being represented by such-and-such a grapheme ‘by default’ we mean that:

  • the phoneme will ordinarily be represented by that grapheme
  • unless there is a reason or circumstance for the phoneme to be represented by a different grapheme.

Here are examples of such default statements.

  • The grapheme < c > is the default for representing the phoneme / k / in initial and medial positions.
  • The grapheme < f > is the default for representing the phoneme / f / in all positions.

The default is only overridden by a relevant phonological or etymological circumstance, or an orthographic convention. For instance:

  • the grapheme < c > for kcan be overridden by the digraph < ch > in words of Greek origin, or by < k > if the following letter is < e > < i > or < y >;
  • the grapheme < f  >for / f / can be overridden by the digraph < ph > in words of Greek origin.

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 In the main part of this Theme we shall see that the ‘default’ grapheme for the phoneme / ᴧ / is < u >. 

 

Related Themes: Theme 1A, Theme To Come