Minimal Pairs


Minimal pairs are pairs of words that differ by a single sound (phoneme), in the same position of a word (in the same phonological environment). Minimal pairs can be used to determine if two sounds are two different phonemes, as it is evidence that they are contrastive (Zsiga, 2013, p. 204).



Suttles (2003) provides an example of a minimal pair. The words differ in only one sound, [h] and [q’] and have different meanings (p. 10).