Unit 7.1

Minimal pairs

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Introduction

A minimal pair is a pair of words that differ in a single phoneme.

Form

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:

Sounds Words
/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

Example

  • sit –seat;
  • bat – but;
  • so – saw;
  • pin – bin.

Use

Minimal pairs are often used to show that two sounds contrast in a language.

Exercises

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Translations


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