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American Sign Language: Minimal Pairs
Also see "Parameter Grouping"


Janet:  Hi there.... would it be possible to chat with you and go over some sign language "minimal pairs" for my sign language college class?  Or can I IM the info to you?  My name is Janet ______.

Dr. Bill:  Sure go ahead
[Editor's note:  Minimal Pairs are two signs which share three out of four production parameters:  handshape, movement, palm orientation and location]

JANET:  The first set I'm working on have the same handshape, movement and location but have a different palm orientation:


Can you think of any others?  I have three other parameter sets as well but I would prefer to do one at a time.  Is that ok?

Dr. Bill:  Which college do you attend?
JANET:  Columbus state community college, [Columbus, Ohio]
Dr. Bill:  Ah, I see, and your teacher won't help you with this stuff or what?
JANET:  No and i've been looking online for info and haven't found much.  I'm really rusty with my signing so I'm trying to figure out if my pairs are really ok.  I have to do four sets with one parameter of each set being different and everything else remaining the same.

Dr. Bill:  Okay, the ones you have listed are good.
Dr. Bill:  Except perhaps "choose/pick"
Dr. Bill:  Unless you are saying one is an "F" hand and the other is an 8 hand?

JANET:  Pick is up and down movement while choose is back and forth movement with everything else being the same
Dr. Bill:  Ah...I see yah..."pick up vs. choose/select"
Dr. Bill:  if I were you I'd grab a dictionary and just flip through it until I found signs that work for your project.

JANET:  I've already done that and I'm just looking for some confirmations

Dr. Bill:  k
Dr. Bill:  let me look at your list again...hd
JANET:  So, if that group looks ok how about this one…palm orientation, movement and location are the same but handshape is different:

pig/ dirty
apple/ candy

Dr. Bill:  how about:  summer, dry, ugly (except the facial expressions)
Dr. Bill:  rooster / father
Dr. Bill:  me / my
Dr. Bill:  home / yesterday
Dr. Bill:  cute  / sweet
JANET:  summer, dry and ugly I have in the category that location is different and everything else is the same right??
Dr. Bill:  um, SAD and CRY are debatable
Dr. Bill:  could also debate PIG and DIRTY--the movement is a bit different
Dr. Bill:  the signs DIRTY and PIG both use could be called "internal wiggle" but the movement itself is different.
Dr. Bill:  APPLE and CANDY are solid choices  
Dr. Bill:  WHITE/LIKE are good

JANET:  handshape, palm orientation and movement are the same while location is different --

Dr. Bill:  um cute /sweet are same location in my book (different handshape). I have though seen some people do a version of "candy" on the cheek that uses the "U" handshape.  For CANDY, I prefer to twist an index finger on my cheek. Heh.

JANET:  movement being different


What do you think?

Dr. Bill:  coffee/make  good
must/need debatable but yah  (inflection: intensity)
think/wonder yah
thirsty/swallow debatable regarding palm orientation
pain/opposite?? yah  (one version of pain, if use single movement)
wait/fire yah
cheese/paper yah
lousy/bug  yes
chocolate/church yes
disappear/start debatable location
break/change debatable handshape

Dr. Bill:  okay well looks like you will do well enough to pass eh?  I gotta jam...anything else?
JANET:  no but thanks...
Dr. Bill:  good luck and have a nice evening.
JANET:  u2
Dr. Bill:  bye
JANET:  thanks again
Dr. Bill:  :) welcome bye


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