Minimal pair

related topics
{language, word, form}
{@card@, make, design}
{food, make, wine}
{black, white, people}
{style, bgcolor, rowspan}
{law, state, case}

In phonology, minimal pairs are pairs of words or phrases in a particular language, which differ in only one phonological element, such as a phone, phoneme, toneme or chroneme and have a distinct meaning. They are used to demonstrate that two phones constitute two separate phonemes in the language.

As an example for English vowels, the pair "let" + "lit" can be used to demonstrate that the phones [ɛ] (in let) and [ɪ] (in lit) do in fact represent distinct phonemes /ɛ/ and /ɪ/. An example for English consonants is the minimal pair of "pat" + "bat". In phonetics, this pair, like any other, differs in a number of ways. In this case, the contrast appears largely to be conveyed with a difference in the voice onset time of the initial consonant as the configuration of the mouth is the same for [p] and [b]; however, there is also a possible difference in duration, which visual analysis using high quality video supports.[citation needed]

Phonemic differentiation may vary between different dialects of a language, so that a particular minimal pair in one accent is a pair of homophones in another. This does not necessarily mean that one of the phonemes is absent in the homonym accent; merely that it is not present in the same range of contexts.

Contents

Examples

Differentiations in English

Following pairs prove existence of various distinct phonemes in English.

Differentiating consonants with same location and manner of articulation

Full article ▸

related documents
Fricative consonant
Diacritic
British toponymy
Romanization of Japanese
Regional accents of English
New Latin
Celtic languages
Middle English creole hypothesis
Semivowel
False friend
Swiss German
Sardinian language
South African English
Doric dialect (Scotland)
Mass noun
Orthography
Furigana
Slash (punctuation)
Shorthand
Common Era
Pali
Backronym
Language family
Collective noun
Ampersand
Ural-Altaic languages
Glagolitic alphabet
Volapük
Pashto language
Folk etymology