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