Monday, 3 June 2013

minimal pair sentences with weakforms

I'm looking for pairs of sentences differing by a word which has both a weakform and a strongform pronunciation. Here are two examples:
  1. Get the key /ɒf/, /əv/ that door. (I know it's actually not a proper minimal pair)
  2. Father's bringing home /sʌm/, /səm/ missionary for dinner. (My thanks to JWL!)
Do you know of any lists, books, webpages containing such minimal pair sentences?


  1. I’m not sure if these will do…

    You mean that Guy is your boyfriend?
    You mean that guy is your boyfriend?

    I shall send the one with chocolate.
    I shall send thee one with chocolate.

    CONTENT WARNING (Non-linguists might find the following pair of examples unbearably shocking):

    After the incident, he’s taken to sheep.
    After the incident, he’s taken two sheep.

    1. Emilio,

      Replacing sheep with aspirin has certain advantages:
      1. The shocking nature of the first sentence disappears
      2. We now have a contrast between /tu/ and /tu:/
      3. Aspirin are much easier to swallow than sheep

    2. You’re right, John. I should have thought of something like aspirins! –It was a wicked dictionary definition (TAKE1 40 OALD 5th ed) that led me astray.

  2. Emilio: Thanks! Yes, this is exactly what I'm looking for. Splendid!

  3. They saw that /ðət/ petrol can /kən/ explode.
    They saw that /ðæt/ petrol can /kæn/ explode.

  4. They'll have /əv/ boiled eggs.
    They'll have /hæv/ boiled eggs.

    Ooh these are fun, aren't they?

    He's eaten something he shouldn't have /əv/
    He's eaten something he shouldn't have /hæv/

    This one's cheating a bit:

    They discovered the monks who'd killed him.
    They discovered the monkshood killed him.

    Monkshood is a name for aconitum which is poisonous.

  5. There /ðə/ shouldn't be a problem.
    There /ðeə/ shouldn't be a problem.

    Almost time for lunch!

  6. John, you must be hungry after having produced so many beautiful sentences. I finished my lunch a few minutes ago - couscous mixed with vegetables and dry-cured ham.

    1. I don't know about beautiful, but I hope they're useful.

      Fortified by a couple of toasted bagels with cream cheese and lots of lemon juice and black pepper, I have come up with another two:

      Did she arrive at a quarter to /tə/ two?
      Did she arrive at a quarter to /tuː/ too?

      The next one only works if you allow an assimilation in the first sentence:

      Look at /əp/ Bill's address.
      Look up /ʌp/ Bill's address.

      Now I have to think up good reasons for not mowing the lawn this afternoon. Wish me luck!

    2. The lady of the house will not be amused if you don't attend to the lawn.

    3. You have hit the nail on the head. I have done about 2/3 of it, but it's hot out there, so I've come inside for a little rest. While massacring the buttercups, daisies and dandelions I thought of two more:

      That's the reason I chose those for children.
      That's the reason I chose those four children.

      This one is interesting, I think.

      Half past three /hɑː pəs θriː/ (3:30)
      (None of them passed all four tests, but) half passed three /hɑːf pɑːst θriː/

      I certainly can't elide the /f/ of "half" in the second sentence. I don't even reckon much to a pron. with the /t/ of "passed" elided either.

    4. Hey, here’s another pair with "for/four":

      The electrician left for Leeds this morning.
      The electrician left four leads this morning.

    5. John, assuming devoicing one could understand /hɑːpəs θriː/ as 'Harper's three' though it doesn't create a minimal pair sentence.
      Don't forget to behead the rest of the daisies!

  7. I remember to have read some pairs of sentences on JWL's webpages. Now I've found them at in §§ 8-18

  8. All gone daisies!

    Here is another one. Rather surrealistic and macabre, I fear.

    Fish nor /nə/ flesh.
    Fish gnaw /nɔː/ flesh.

    And just one more:

    Jack was brave, but not so /səʊ/ Marmaduke.
    Jack was brave, but not Sir /sə/ Marmaduke.

    1. You've just started me off, John:

      She pinched his but only for a second.
      She pinched his butt only for a second.

      ("Fish gnaw flesh" - I love it!)

  9. And this?

    I won't buy an old paper.
    I won't buy Ann old paper.

  10. Thank you so much for your creativity, chaps!

    1. Just one more, please...

      (With the nucleus on the last word):
      They've come back to exercise a right now.
      They've come back to exercise "A" right now.

    2. Ahem,

      That would cost us a lot of money.
      That wood cost us a lot of money.

    3. (With an intrusive r in the first sentence):

      They saw us laughing.
      They saw Russ laughing.

    4. Now, what did they do in class yesterday? (Nucleus on last word, as always):

      I heard of /əv/ "was" /wɒz/ being discussed. (They discussed the word "was").
      I heard "of" /ɒv/ was /wəz/ being discussed. (They discussed the word "of").

    5. Look at the notice:

      The Left/Right are /ə/ crushed like the rest.
      The left/right "R" /ɑː/ crushed like the rest.

    6. How do you spell them /ðəm/?
      How do you spell "them" /ðem/? (... spell the word "them"?)

      The word must /məst/ hit their ears. (Say it loudly).
      The word "must" /mʌst/ hit their ears.

    7. (That was a good trick, wasn't it?)

      Begin to write the word from /frəm/ here.
      Begin to write the word "from" /frɒm/ here.