Minimal pairs

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Oct 17 17:46:51 UTC 2008

At 1:15 PM -0400 10/17/08, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>My minimal instruction in minimal pairs (I took one semester of
>comparative linguistics) taught me that "light-house keeper" and
>"light house-keeper" were one (was one? were two?).  I now offer
>another (here, since I no longer remember the name of the author of
>the textbook, who included in it a solicitation of minimal pairs from
>his readers):
>"small-business woman" and "small business-woman".
>(I do actually intend to say the former in conversation today.)
One difference is that the members of your pair are often pronounced
(e.g. by me) the same, while the classic one is distinguished
suprasegmentally.  So that would make yours a minimal pair in its
morphology and semantics, but not phonologically.

I just heard a commercial for Optimum Business that referred
repeatedly to "small business owners", and there was really no way
(except for context, of course) to tell which bracketing was intended.


The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list