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Minimal pairs

When two signs differ by a single formative parameter, they are called ‘minimal pairs’.

As with spoken languages, where the difference of a single phoneme can change the meaning of two words (such as team/time, make/bake), in sign languages changing a single formative parameter can change the meaning of the sign.

For example, the signs below differ in their non-manual component:

  • Sorrow

  • Love

The signs below differ in location:

  • Difficult

  • Remember

The signs below differ in handshape:

  • Work

  • Always

More examples

You can see other examples in the Basic components section in Gramàtica bàsica LSC (Quer et al. 2005), which you can find at the following link: Basic sign components

Content: Barberà, Gemma (2010) Language: Catalan Sign Language (LSC) [academic notes]. UPFMoodle

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Introduction to Catalan Sign Language: Speaking with Your Hands and Hearing with Your Eyes

Pompeu Fabra University Barcelona

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