A Symbol that Represents a Speech Sound and is a Unit of an Alphabet:

  • Voice quality symbol
  • Grapheme

Most times Voice quality Symbol (VoQS) and Grapheme are used interchangeably in relation with the speech quality. These two terms are really different in their meanings and essence. We will discuss both in detail.

Voice Quality Symbols are usually phonetic generally, used to transcribed disordered speech. For this feature it is known as voice quality in Speech pathology. On the other hand, Grapheme  is the symbol that represents a speech sound and it is a unit of an alphabet.  The major difference is voice quality symbols are phonetic symbols themselves whereas Grapehme is a unit of alphabet, presenting the speech or sound.


The term “Symbol” has a deep history in the Greek and it is also known as “Symballo”, it means together, throw or put together, keep together. Here we are referring to different ideas that collectively come as one to represent one idea or ideology. Different symbols when put together make one language or ideas of their own.

Voice quality symbols (VoQS):

If you check the definition of Voice quality symbols (voQS), here is the brief one taken from Wikipedia, “Voice Quality Symbols (VoQS) are a set of phonetic symbols used to transcribe disordered speech for what in speech pathology is known as “voice quality”.

The most common symbols that everyone is familiar with are  α and β, the former one presents alpha and the latter one presents beta. There are more symbols to the same domain such as gamma and delta and so forth. Just like that Voice quality symbols have their own meanings that they present. They usually refer to function in phonetics. They are combined with braces in the speech to present different terms and notation.  By adding digit to the symbols, a varying degree of quality is observed.

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In general, human have been using symbols since there was no definite language for them to use for communication. The old mountains and sculptures carry symbols. Those were engraved by the ancient people, who would communicate in different languages that we may or may not comprehend today.  Symbols do present different things, for example, a cross may be presenting a catholic church, christian or Jesus Christ. It depends what logical explanations are available in the records and books.

Symbols can be in the form of alphabetical letters, colors, shapes and patterns. Remember that there are Morse codes available which are codes to educate blind people. They can touch these telecommunication codes or black dots  to learn a language in order to communicate with ease.  Not only that symbols are also used in poetry and literature as well, some carry hidden codes, meanings and metaphors, way complicated to understand for an average being.


Let’s talk about Grapheme now and define it a little bit.  Grapheme is not a symbol itself, in fact it is a phoneme. A phoneme is a single letter or a group of different letters producing the sound. I would simplify it in the most easy to understand way.If you write or pronoun the word ‘ghost’, it contains five letters in general in writing which are g, h, o, s, and t. We read it g and h together, like ‘gh’, and the rest of three letters separately ‘o’, ‘s’ and ‘t’. The first two letters are considered one grapheme and the rest of three are making three, in total you have four graphemes in a group of word “ghosts”.

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