HOME

TheInfoList




In
phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of lan ...

phonology
, minimal pairs are pairs of
word In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most lang ...

word
s or phrases in a particular
language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the ...

language
, spoken or
signed Signing may refer to: * Using sign language * Signature, placing one's name on a document * Signature (disambiguation) * Manual communication, signing as a form of communication using the hands in place of the voice * Digital signature, signing as ...

signed
, that differ in only one phonological element, such as a
phoneme In phonology and linguistics, a phoneme is a unit of sound that distinguishes one word from another in a particular language. For example, in most List of dialects of English, dialects of English, with the notable exception of the West Midlan ...
,
toneme Tone is the use of pitch Pitch may refer to: Acoustic frequency * Pitch (music), the perceived frequency of sound including "definite pitch" and "indefinite pitch" ** Absolute pitch or "perfect pitch" ** Pitch class, a set of all pitches th ...
or
chroneme In linguistics, a chroneme is a basic, theoretical unit of sound that can distinguish words by duration only of a vowel or consonant. The noun ''chroneme'' is derived from Greek χρόνος (chrónos, ''time''), and the suffixed ''-eme'', which ...
, and have distinct meanings. They are used to demonstrate that two
phones A telephone is a telecommunications device that permits two or more users to conduct a conversation when they are too far apart to be heard directly. A telephone converts sound, typically and most efficiently the human voice, into electronic ...
are two separate phonemes in the language. Many phonologists in the middle part of the 20th century had a strong interest in developing techniques for discovering the phonemes of unknown languages, and in some cases, they set up writing systems for the languages. The major work of
Kenneth Pike Kenneth Lee Pike (June 9, 1912 – December 31, 2000) was an American Linguistics, linguist and Anthropology, anthropologist. He was the originator of the theory of tagmemics, the coiner of the terms Emic and etic, "emic" and "etic" and the ...
on the subject is ''Phonemics: a technique for reducing languages to writing''. The minimal pair was an essential tool in the discovery process and was found by substitution or commutation tests. As an example for
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
vowel A vowel is a syllabicSyllabic may refer to: *Syllable, a unit of speech sound, considered the building block of words **Syllabic consonant, a consonant that forms the nucleus of a syllable *Syllabary, writing system using symbols for syllables ...

vowel
s, the pair "let" + "lit" can be used to demonstrate that the phones (in let) and (in lit) actually represent distinct phonemes and . An example for English
consonants In articulatory phonetics The field of articulatory phonetics is a subfield of phonetics that studies articulation and ways that humans produce speech. Articulatory phoneticians explain how humans produce speech sounds via the interaction of d ...

consonants
is the minimal pair of "pat" + "bat". The following table shows other pairs demonstrating the existence of various distinct phonemes in English. All of the possible minimal pairs for any language may be set out in the same way.
Phonemic differentiation In historical linguistics Historical linguistics, also termed diachronic linguistics, is the scientific study of language change over time. Principal concerns of historical linguistics include: # to describe and account for observed chang ...
may vary between different
dialect The term dialect (from Latin , , from the Ancient Greek word , 'discourse', from , 'through' and , 'I speak') can refer to either of two distinctly different types of Linguistics, linguistic phenomena: * One usage refers to a variety (linguis ...
s of a language so a particular minimal pair in one
accentAccent may refer to: Speech and language * Accent (sociolinguistics), way of pronunciation particular to a speaker or group of speakers * Accent (phonetics), prominence given to a particular syllable in a word, or a word in a phrase ** Pitch accen ...
may be a pair of
homophone A homophone () is a word that is pronouncedPronunciation is the way in which a word or a language is spoken. This may refer to generally agreed-upon sequences of sounds used in speaking a given word or language in a specific dialect ("correct ...
s in another. That means not that one of the phonemes is absent in the homonym accent but only that it is not contrastive in the same range of contexts.


Types

In addition to the minimal pairs of vowels and consonants provided above, others may be found:


Quantity

Many languages show contrasts between long and short vowels and consonants. A distinctive difference in length is attributed by some phonologists to a unit called a
chroneme In linguistics, a chroneme is a basic, theoretical unit of sound that can distinguish words by duration only of a vowel or consonant. The noun ''chroneme'' is derived from Greek χρόνος (chrónos, ''time''), and the suffixed ''-eme'', which ...
. Thus,
Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian language, a Romance language *** Regional Italian, regional variants of the ...

Italian
has the following minimal pair that is based on long and short : However, in such a case it is not easy to decide whether a long vowel or consonant should be treated as having an added chroneme or simply as a
geminate In phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of eve ...
sound with phonemes.
Classical Latin Classical Latin is the form of Latin language Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. ...
,
German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law * German language The German la ...

German
, some
Italian dialects Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of a Northern Italy, continental pa ...
, almost all
Uralic languages The Uralic languages (; sometimes called Uralian languages ) form a language family A language family is a group of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning " ...

Uralic languages
,
Thai Thai or THAI may refer to: * Of or from Thailand, a country in Southeast Asia ** Thai people, the dominant ethnic group of Thailand ** Thai language, a Tai-Kadai language spoken mainly in and around Thailand *** Thai script *** Thai (Unicode block) ...

Thai
, and many other languages also have distinctive length in
vowel A vowel is a syllabicSyllabic may refer to: *Syllable, a unit of speech sound, considered the building block of words **Syllabic consonant, a consonant that forms the nucleus of a syllable *Syllabary, writing system using symbols for syllables ...

vowel
s. An example is the ''cŭ/cū'' minimal pair in the dialect that is spoken near
Palmi Palmi may refer to: People Given name Palmi is an Icelandic male given name. Notable people with this surname include: * Pálmi Gestsson (born 1957), Icelandic actor and voice actor * Pálmi Gunnarsson (born 1950), Icelandic musician * Pálmi Ha ...
(Calabria, Italy):


Syntactic gemination

In some languages like Italian, word-initial consonants are
geminate In phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of eve ...
d after certain vowel-final words in the same
prosodic unit In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the me ...
. Sometimes, the phenomenon can create some syntactic-gemination-minimal-pairs: In the example, the graphical
accentAccent may refer to: Speech and language * Accent (sociolinguistics), way of pronunciation particular to a speaker or group of speakers * Accent (phonetics), prominence given to a particular syllable in a word, or a word in a phrase ** Pitch accen ...
on ''dà'' is just a
diacritical mark A diacritic (also diacritical mark, diacritical point, diacritical sign, or accent) is a glyph The term glyph is used in typography File:metal movable type.jpg, 225px, Movable type being assembled on a composing stick using pieces that ...
that does not change the
pronunciation Pronunciation is the way in which a word or a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful d ...
of the word itself. However, in some specific areas, like
Tuscany it, Toscano (man) it, Toscana (woman) , population_note = , population_blank1_title = , population_blank1 = , demographics_type1 = Citizenship , demographics1_footnotes = , demographics1_title1 = Italian , demogra ...
, both phrases are pronounced and so can be distinguished only from the context.


Tone

Minimal pairs for tone contrasts in
tone language Tone is the use of pitch (music), pitch in language to distinguish lexical or grammatical meaning – that is, to distinguish or to inflection, inflect words. All verbal languages use pitch to express emotional and other paralinguistic informat ...
s can be established; some writers refer to that as a contrast involving a
toneme Tone is the use of pitch Pitch may refer to: Acoustic frequency * Pitch (music), the perceived frequency of sound including "definite pitch" and "indefinite pitch" ** Absolute pitch or "perfect pitch" ** Pitch class, a set of all pitches th ...
. For example,
KonoKONO may refer to: * KONO (AM), a radio station (860 AM) in San Antonio, Texas, United States * KONO-FM, a radio station (101.1 FM) in Helotes, Texas, United States * KSAT-TV, a television station (channel 12) in San Antonio, Texas, United States th ...
distinguishes high tone and low tone on syllables:


Stress

Languages in which stress may occur in different positions within the word often have contrasts that can be shown in minimal pairs, as in
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
and
Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Canada * Spanish River (disambiguation), the name of several ...

Spanish
: In English stress can determine the part of speech of a word: ''insult'' as a noun is while as a verb it is . In certain cases it can also differentiate two words: ''below'' vs ''billow'' .


Juncture

Anglophones can distinguish between, for example, "great ape" and "grey tape", but phonemically, the two phrases are identical: . The difference between the two phrases, which constitute a minimal pair, is said to be one of
juncture Juncture, in linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis ...
. At the word boundary, a "plus juncture" /+/ has been posited and said to be the factor conditioning allophones to allow distinctivity: in this example, the phrase "great ape" has an diphthong shortened by pre-fortis clipping and, since it is not syllable-initial, a with little aspiration (variously ,

, , , etc., depending on dialect); meanwhile in "grey tape", the has its full length and the is aspirated . Only languages with allophonic differences associated with grammatical boundaries may have juncture as a phonological element. There is disagreement over whether or not
French
French
has phonological juncture: it seems likely that the difference between, for example, "" (some little holes) and "" (some little wheels), phonemically both , is only perceptible in slow, careful speech.


Minimal sets

The principle of a simple binary opposition between the two members of a minimal pair may be extended to cover a minimal set in which a number of words differ from one another in terms of one phone in a particular position in the word. For example, the vowels , , , , of
Swahili Swahili may refer to: * Swahili language, a Bantu language official in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda and widely spoken in the African Great Lakes * Swahili people, an ethnic group in East Africa * Swahili culture, the culture of the Swahili people * Sw ...
are shown to be distinct by the following set of words: ''pata'' 'hinge', ''peta'' 'bend', ''pita'' 'pass', ''pota'' 'twist', ''puta'' 'thrash'. However, establishing such sets is not always straightforward and may require very complex study of multiple oppositions as expounded by, for example,
Nikolai Trubetzkoy Prince Nikolai Sergeyevich Trubetzkoy ( rus, Никола́й Серге́евич Трубецко́й, p=trʊbʲɪtsˈkoj; 16 April 1890 – 25 June 1938) was a Russian linguistics, linguist and historian whose teachings formed a nucleus of the P ...

Nikolai Trubetzkoy
.


Teaching

Minimal pairs were an important part of the theory of pronunciation teaching during its development in the period of structuralist linguistics, particularly in the 1940s and 1950s, and minimal pair drills were widely used to train students to discriminate among the phonemes of the target language. These drills took the form of minimal pair word drills and minimal pair sentence drills. For example, if the focus of a lesson was on the distinction /ɪ/ versus /ɛ/, learners might be asked to signal which sound they heard as the teacher pronounced lists of words with these phonemes such as ''lid/led'', ''tin/ten'', or ''slipped/slept''. Minimal pair sentence drills consisted of paired sentences such as "He slipped on the floor/He slept on the floor." Again, learners would be asked to distinguish which of the sentences they heard as the teacher read them aloud. Another use of minimal pair drills was in pair work. Here, one member of the pair would be responsible for listening to the other member read the minimal pair word or sentence aloud and would be tasked with identifying which phoneme was being produced. In this form of classroom practice, both the skills of perception and production were practiced. Later writers have criticized the approach as being artificial and lacking in relevance to language learners' needs. However, even today minimal pair listening and production drills remain a common tool for the teaching of segmental differences. Some writers have claimed that learners are likely not to hear differences between phones if the difference is not a phonemic one. One of the objectives of
contrastive analysis Contrastive analysis is the systematic study of a pair of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages ha ...
of languages' sound systems was to identify points of likely difficulty for language learners that would arise from differences in phoneme inventories between the native language and the target language. However, experimental evidence for this claim is hard to find, and the claim should be treated with caution.


In sign languages

In the past, signs were considered holistic forms without internal structure. However, the discovery in the mid-20th century that minimal pairs also exist in sign languages showed that sign languages have sublexical structure. Signs consist of
phonemes In phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of ...
, which are specifications for location, movement, handshape, orientation, and non-manual elements. When signs differ in only one of these specifications, they form a minimal pair. For instance, the German Sign Language sign
shoes
an
socks
are identical in form apart from their handshapes.


See also

* Minimal pairs in
Phoneme In phonology and linguistics, a phoneme is a unit of sound that distinguishes one word from another in a particular language. For example, in most List of dialects of English, dialects of English, with the notable exception of the West Midlan ...


References


Bibliography

*Brown, G. (1990) ''Listening to Spoken English'', Longman *Celce-Murcia, M., D. Brinton and J. Goodwin (1996) ''Teaching Pronunciation'', Cambridge University Press *Fromkin, V. and Rodman, R. (1993) ''An Introduction to Language'', Harcourt Brace Jovanovich *Jones, Daniel (1931) ' "" ' The "Word" as a phonetic entity' Le Maître Phonétique, XXXVI, pp. 60–65. *Jones, Daniel (1944) 'Chronemes and Tonemes', ''Acta Linguistica'', IV, Copenhagen, pp. 1–10. *Ladefoged, Peter (2001) ''Vowels and Consonants'', Blackwell *Ladefoged, Peter (2006) ''A Course in Phonetics'', Thomson *Lado, R. (1957) ''Linguistics across Cultures'', University of Michigan Press *Lado, R. (1961) ''Language Testing'', Longman *O'Connor, J.D. (1973) ''Phonetics'', Penguin *O'Connor, J.D and Tooley, O. (1964) 'The perceptibility of certain word-boundaries', in Abercrombie et al. (eds) ''In Honour of Daniel Jones'', Longman, pp. 171–6. *Pennington, M. (1996) ''Phonology in English Language Teaching'', Longman *Pike, Kenneth (1947) ''Phonemics'', University of Michigan Press *Roach, Peter (2009) ''English Phonetics and Phonology'', Cambridge University Press *Swadesh, M. (1934) 'The Phonemic Principle', ''Language'' vol. 10, pp. 117–29 *Trubetzkoy, N., translated by C. Baltaxe(1969) ''Principles of Phonology'', University of California Press {{DEFAULTSORT:Minimal Pair Phonology