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is this a minimal pair?

asked 2015-08-25 08:47:11 -0400

bellz gravatar image

[kɨtʲ] and [kʲitʲ]

the diacritic at the top is "j" for palatalized. this diacritic is seen after "t" and the second "k". Does diacritics play a role in determining minimal pairs?

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answered 2015-09-02 22:43:31 -0400

jonorthwash gravatar image

updated 2015-09-03 00:03:01 -0400

These might be minimal pairs in a language like Russian where the palatalisation of the consonant affects whether you have an [ɨ] sound or an [i] sound. For example, depending on how you analyse Russian, /bɪtʲ/ and /bʲɪtʲ/ are a minimal pair ("to be" and "to beat", respectively), and surface roughly as [bɨtʲ]/[bˠɨtʲ] and [bʲitʲ]. However, in Russian, velars are always phonologically palatal, so you don't get this sort of minimal pair with /k/ (though you do get the odd borrowed word, like /kɨɾgɨzˈstan/, though most Russian speakers still say /kʲiɾˈgʲizʲija/, or at best /kʲiɾgʲizˈstan/, because there's a problem with encoding a velar followed by [ɨ] in this analysis of how Russian works).

In any case, my point is that the question of whether two utterances form a minimal pair or not can only be answered in relation to a particular linguistic variety, so some clarification might be needed on your part depending on what sort of answer you're after.

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You raise the good point that minimal pairs are usually talked about at the level of the (traditional generative phonology) underlying representation, not at the surface phonetic level.Thus, yes, if [i] vs. [ɨ] is allophonically conditioned by the [k] vs [kʲ] distinction, they may be minimal pairs.

usagi5886 gravatar imageusagi5886 ( 2015-09-02 23:30:18 -0400 )edit

Also, to answer the more specific question of whether diacritics play a role in determining minimal pairs, it again depends on the language. In Russian, before /ɪ/, /k/ and /kʲ/ don't contrast (though they do before e.g. /u/), but in some language they might.

jonorthwash gravatar imagejonorthwash ( 2015-09-03 00:06:06 -0400 )edit
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answered 2015-08-27 21:24:57 -0400

usagi5886 gravatar image

So long as there is one difference distinguishing the two words, it qualifies as a minimal pair, regardless of whether it is transcribed in superscript / as a diacritic. (The distinction between a transcription of, say, [pʲa] and [pja] is generally at the level of phonological theory, not the surface phonetic facts.)

However, I notice your two words differ in two ways: not just [k] vs [kʲ] but also [i] vs. [ɨ]. As such, no, your words would be merely "near" minimal pairs and not true minimal pairs per se.

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Asked: 2015-08-25 08:47:11 -0400

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Last updated: Sep 03 '15