A minimal pair is a pair of words that differ in a single phoneme.
Minimal pairs show two words together that only change in one phoneme which is in the same position in both words. They normally confuse non-native speakers due to their similarity.
The phoneme that changes can either be a consonant or a vowel sound.
Some typical minimal pairs are:
|/p/ – /b/
|pin – bin
|/s/ – /z/
|bus – buzz
|/f/ – /θ/
|free – three
|/dʒ/ – /j/
|jaw – your
|/æ/ – /e/
|bad – bed
|/ɒ/ – /ɔ:/
|cot – caught
- As it can be seen, the words are almost equal in sound, not in their written form
- sit –seat;
- bat – but;
- so – saw;
- pin – bin.
Minimal pairs are often used to show that two sounds contrast in a language.
External link to Minimal pairs exercises (1212).
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