Minimal Pairs in English definitions examples

Minimal pairs

Minimal pair – two words, word forms, or morphemes of a given language, differing only in one phoneme in the same position (otherwise they are called quasi-mononyms: 107). In a particular case, the difference in phonemes may consist of the mismatch of the values ​​of just one differential feature: cf. Russian tom – house (consonants differ as voiceless and voiced), everyday life – to be (consonants differ as hard and soft), cat – that (consonants differ in the place of formation). Words or morphemes within a minimal pair can also differ in stress or tone. We are describing here the Minimal Pairs in English

The concept of minimum pair derives from the binarism of phonology, both structuralist and generative. In both cases, it is a matter of establishing phonological oppositions between any units of the same category; p. For example, a front vowel versus a back vowel / i – u /, a voiceless consonant (tense) versus a voiced (loose) / p – b /, a stressed syllable versus an unstressed / jumped – jump / (remember that we mean the prosodic accent, not the graphic), an interrogative melodic curve versus a declarative one / Catalina? – Catalina./, etc.

In phonology, minimum pairs are pairs of words or phrases in a particular language, spoken or signed, that differ in only one phonological element, such as phonemes, toneme, or chroneme, and have different meanings. They are used to demonstrate that two phones are two separate phonemes in a language.

Many phonologists in the mid-20th century were keenly interested in developing methods for detecting phonemes in unknown languages, and in some cases, they created writing systems for languages. Kenneth Pike’s main work on this issue is Phonemics: a method of converting languages ​​to writing. The minimum pair was an important tool in the discovery process and was found through replacement or patch tests .

As an example for English vowels, the pair “l e t” + “l i t” can be used to demonstrate that the phones [ɛ] (in l e t) and [ɪ] (in l i t) actually represent different phonemes / ɛ / and / ɪ /. An example of English consonants is the minimal pair ” pat” + ” bat”.

Minimal Pairs in English with examples

Below are examples of Minimal pairs in English

1-Vowels:  / iː / and / ɪ /


  1. beach  bitch
  2. heat     hit
  3. peach  pitch
  4. eat       Item
  5. seat     sit
  6. bead    bid
  7. beet     bit

2- Vowels:  / æ / and / e / 

  1. bag      beg
  2. bat       bet
  3. fast      fest
  4. man     men

3- Vowels:  / e / and / eɪ /

  1. Get        Gate
  2. Let          Late
  3. Fell         Fail
  4. Sell         Comes out
  5. Tech      Take
  6. Well       Whale

4-Vowels:  / æ / and / ʌ /

  1. Bat         But
  2. Chap      Cup
  3. Cat         Cut
  4. Match   Much
  5. Ran        Run
  6. Sang      Sung

5- Vowels: / e / and / ɪ /

  1. bed        bid
  2. Left        Lift
  3. Mess     Miss
  4. beg        big
  5. bell         bill
  6. Belt        Built
  7. Bet         Bit

6- Vowels: / u: / and / ɔ: /

  1. boot      bought
  2. cool        call
  3. drew     draw
  4. flew       flaw
  5. fool        fall

7- Vowels and Diphthongs: / ɪ / and / aɪ /

  1. be           buy
  2. cream   crime
  3. delete   delight
  4. feel        file
  5. feet       fight
  6. free       fry
  7. freeze   fries 

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