from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun linguistics A pair of words differing by only one phonetic segment or suprasegment, used to prove the validity of a proposed phoneme, toneme, or chroneme.


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

minimal + pair


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  • In phonetics, pairs of words or phrases in a particular language which differ in only one phoneme and have a distinct meaning. They are used to demonstrate that two phones constitute two separate phonemes in the language.

    English "let" + "lit" proves that phones e and i do in fact represent distinct phonemes /e/ and /i/. The phones do not have to be vowels, as the English minimal pair of "pat" + "bat" shows.

    More examples:

    dime + time      /d/ and /t/

    rot + lot           /r/ and /l/

    zeal + seal        /z/ and /s/

    rhyme + time     /r/ and /t/

    meal + meet      /l/ and /t/

    feet + seat        /f/ and /s/

    August 23, 2008