Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Minimal Pairs, Maximal Entertainment

Today I spent a large part of the session going through sets of minimal pairs that I've accumulated. A phonetic minimal pair is where two words are exactly the same except for one feature. So 'tin' and 'ten' are a vowel minimal pair in English, and 'pet' is a consonant minimal pair with 'bet'. You can have more than two words that have minimally same features, for example, 'head', 'had', 'who'd', 'hid', 'hod' and 'heed' are a minimal vowel set for Australian English speakers.

Anyway, A. thought the whole affair was hilarious. After the first set or two she cottoned on to what I was doing, and with every pair her and her cousin would fall into fits of laughter. My recording of the session is punctuated by fits of giggling and exclamations of 'same, same!'

It made me remember that while my knowledge and understanding of K. grows daily, for A. it's a natural and subconscious thing. She's spoken the language all her life without ever having to reflect on the fact that 'brother' and 'body hair' are exactly the same, but the former has low tone and the later has high.

It also made me remember that language is silly and fun - as though I needed reminding.

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