Minimal pairs

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A minimal pair are a pair of words that only differ by one phoneme, which, in sitelen Lasina, is also by one letter. Minimal pairs can be confusing while learning Toki Pona's vocabulary, so it is useful to study these and come up with mnemonics for them. This article only covers the nimi ku suli.

Suprasegmentals[edit | edit source]

These words and phrases are only contrasted by suprasegmental and prosodic features like stress and rhythm. The first syllable of each word is stressed. Phrases that are crossed out are ungrammatical in standard Toki Pona. Other phrases may be ungrammatical in isolation, but can occur in certain larger phrases.

  • ali, a li
  • ala, a la
  • epiku, e pi ku
  • kalama, kala ma
  • lili, li li
  • lili lili, li lili li
  • lipu, li pu
  • mama, ma ma
  • mani, ma ni
  • nimi, ni mi
  • oko, o ko
  • pini, pi ni
  • pipi, pi pi
  • utala, uta la
With n
  • en, e n
  • kon, ko n
  • lanpan, la n pan
  • mun, mu n
  • nanpa, n anpa
  • olin, o li n
  • pilin, pi li n
  • sinpin, sin pi n

Rhymes[edit | edit source]

Because Toki Pona always puts stress on the first syllable, rhymes are only ever distinguished by the first consonant, and thus are all minimal pairs. English speakers are generally pretty used to rhyme, so these might not be as troublesome as other examples.

  • a, la, ma
  • ala, kala
  • ali, pali
  • kama, mama, sama
  • laso, taso, waso
  • lawa, tawa, wawa
  • jan, pan, tan, wan
  • anpa, nanpa
  • meli, seli
  • jelo, selo, telo
  • en, ken, len
  • li, mi, ni, pi
  • ike, sike
  • kili, lili
  • kin, sin
  • jo, ko, o
  • noka, poka
  • poki, toki
  • oko, soko
  • ona, pona, sona
  • kon, lon
  • monsi, tonsi
  • ku, mu, pu, tu
  • lupa, supa
  • kute, mute

Null phoneme[edit | edit source]

These pairs are distinguished only by a phoneme being present in one word and absent in another.

Initial[edit | edit source]

  • ala, la
  • ali, li
  • en, n
  • ijo, jo
  • oko, ko

Final[edit | edit source]

  • pan, pana
  • sin, sina
  • n, ni
  • e, en
  • ko, kon
  • mu, mun

Multiple instances of a phoneme[edit | edit source]

Consonant[edit | edit source]

  • lili, pipi
  • mama, wawa

Vowel[edit | edit source]

  • kala, kili
  • pana, pini
  • sama, seme

Differ by nucleus[edit | edit source]

Monosyllabic[edit | edit source]

  • a, e, n, o
  • ken, kin
  • ko, ku
  • ma, mi, mu

Polysyllabic[edit | edit source]

  • ala, ale/ali[1]
  • anpa, unpa
  • poka, poki
  • seli, selo
  • seli, suli
  • sewi, suwi
  • sina, sona

Differ by consonant[edit | edit source]

  • ijo, ilo
  • luka, lupa
  • poka, pona
  • seli, sewi
  • suli, suwi

Notes[edit | edit source]

English Wikipedia has an article on
Minimal pairs.
  1. The pronunciation variant ali was introduced to make this less confusing, for speakers who would reduce the final, unstressed -e to sound too much like -a.