NOTICE: Citizendium is still being set up on its newer server, treat as a beta for now; please see here for more.
Citizendium - a community developing a quality comprehensive compendium of knowledge, online and free. Click here to join and contribute—free
CZ thanks our previous donors. Donate here. Treasurer's Financial Report -- Thanks to our content contributors. --

Minimal pair

From Citizendium, the Citizens' Compendium
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is a stub and thus not approved.
Main Article
Talk
Related Articles  [?]
Bibliography  [?]
External Links  [?]
Citable Version  [?]
 
This editable Main Article is under development and not meant to be cited; by editing it you can help to improve it towards a future approved, citable version. These unapproved articles are subject to a disclaimer.

In linguistics, two units of language such as a words or syllables that differ in only one component, such as a single phoneme, are called a minimal pair. Minimal pairs are widely used in language teaching. In English, typical phonemic examples are:

  • 'cat' and 'mat'
  • 'fish' and 'wish'
  • 'abortion' and 'apportion'
  • 'parole' and 'patrol'
  • 'inane' and 'innate'

Spelling can disguise the fact of a minimal pair; here are some examples of this (pronunciation as at English spellings/English phonemes):

  • 'bane' and 'boon' (bâne, boôn)
  • 'Bardot' and 'Bordeaux' (*Bardô, *Bordô)
  • 'league' and 'leak' (*lêag, lêak)
  • 'do' and 'two' (*doô, = toô)
  • 'Evans' and 'heavens' (*évnz, *hévnz)
  • 'boater' and 'voter' (*bôter, *vôater)
  • 'mosque' and 'musk' (*mósk, músk)
  • 'none' and 'known' (= nún, *nône)
  • 'cartoon' and 'Khartoum' (cartoôn, *cartoôm)
  • 'wash' and 'posh' (*wósh, pósh)
  • 'loose' and 'lose' (*loôss, *loôz)
  • 'proof' and 'prove' (proôf, *proôv)

In other languages, minimal pairs may also be identified by tone. In Mandarin, 妈 (high-level tone), 麻 (high-rising), 马 (fall-rise) and 骂 (falling) all have completely different meanings, distinguished by variations in pitch which are stored in the lexicon or speaker's 'mental dictionary' as part of the syllables (these mean 'Ma' as in 'mama', 'hemp', 'horse' and 'scold' respectively).[1]

Footnotes

  1. A well-known example sentence including these four meanings is: māma qi mǎ, mǎ chi má, māma mà mǎ (妈妈骑马,马吃麻,妈妈骂马 'mother rides a horse, the horse eats hemp, mother scolds the horse').