Sound Of Code

Learn Morse Code: What you need to know.

by Joe Soboul

Morse code is widely referred to as a system of dots and dashes. In the early days of telegraphy, this was the case. However, with the advent of wireless telegraphy around 1897 communications via Morse code has been largely aural (by ear) where each character or letter has a unique sound. The letter “F,” for example, is didi_da_dit. The separation of sound elements (in this case three) within each character or letter and use of the under_score are for instructional purposes to indicate that the elements are sent as complete characters or letters. The separation of sound elements within each character or letter enables students to better recognize and properly replicate the sound for each Morse code character or letter.

Unfortunately, some teachers continue to refer to Morse code as dots and dashes and their teaching materials include the English alphabet with the traditional identifying dots and dashes or a system of dits and dahs as if the two were synonymous. This is incorrect as the former is Morse code in written form, while the latter is Morse code by unique sounds. Nevertheless, within the sounds of Morse code there appears to be confusion on the proper use of di and dit sounds. A review of the frequency of Morse code sounds within the 26-letter-English alphabet revealed the following:

  • di sound 38.4% (di has a short vowel sound as in the word di-lem-ma)
  • dit sound 17.4% (the dit’s only function is to end a character or letter).
  • da sound 30.2% (the da is sounded within a character or letter.)
  • dah sound 13.9% (the dah sound ends a character or letter).

Principles for teaching and learning Morse code:

The di sound, with one exception -- the error sign, never stands alone. Nevertheless, the di plays an important helper role. It links with other di’s as in didi (ditty) or didi_didi (ditty-ditty) to form da_didi_dah for the letter “X” and didi_didi_dit for number five or didi_didi_dah for number four. The di also teams up with the dit as in di_dit for the letter “I,” and the dah as in di_dah for the letter “A.”. In addition, the di sound appears within da_di_dah for the letter “K” and da_da_di_dah for the letter “Q”.

In summary, the occurrence of the di sound is a two to one favorite over the dit sound in the Morse code alphabet. Once again, for emphasis, the dit’s sole function is the ending sound for a character or letter and nothing follows a dit for that character or letter. As an example, some incorrectly refer to the letter “S” as dit dit dit, however, this is the letter “E” three times over. The correct sounding for the letter “S” is didi_dit.



Last edited December 11, 2007
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