Near Minimal Pairs


Near minimal pairs are words that are almost almost exactly alike, meaning they differ by more than only one sound. Near minimal pairs can sometimes be useful in determining the phonemic status of a language’s phoneme if no minimal pairs are available (Zsiga, 2013, p. 210).



Suttles (2003) provides an example of a near-minimal pair when contrasting [k] and [q] in Hul’q’umi’num’ (p. 7). It can be seen that the words for car and water differ by two sounds each.