Innovation in Language Learning

Edition 17

Accepted Abstracts

The Benefits of Using Minimal Pairs in Learning the Geminate/Singleton Contrast by French Learners

Sonia D' Apolito, University of Salento, Centro di Ricerca Interdisciplinare sul Linguaggio (CRIL) (Italy)


The Minimal Pair Technique (MPT) is based on the use of the minimal pairs for both teaching and improving learners’ pronunciation as it allows to focus on the sounds playing a linguistic function in a  target language. As for English, for instance, this technique has been employed to teach some discrete sounds [1,2] or to improve the distinction between voiced and voiceless sounds [3] and between long and short vowels [4]. Results showed the effectiveness of minimal pairs when employed either as a teaching or learning tool. In [5] was observed the improvement of the French learners’ ability in differentiating the Italian geminate/singleton contrast by using minimal pairs. Contrary to Italian, in French language gemination does not exist and French learners find difficulty in producing geminates which, generally, are reduced to singleton. Using the MPT can lead to a more accurate pronunciation by increasing learners’ awareness and sensitivity in identifying the consonant length contrasts. Minimal pairs, for the Italian phonemes /d,l,n,r,s,t/, were proposed in isolation and in minimal pairs. Acoustic data were collected by 4 French learners (beginner level) and by 3 native speakers (as control). Here, a perceptual test is presented on the basis of the previous work [5]. Ten Italian percipients were asked to judge the Italian-L2 speech by French learners and the Italian-L1 speech by natives as for: 1) intelligibility: orthographically transcription of what they hear; and 2) speakers’ effort: how difficult was the production of the target words on a 7-points Likert scale. Results as for intelligibility confirm those find in acoustics in [5] as learners realize more degemination and gemination when a single word appear as it may cause some confusion. Geminates are judged to be realized with difficulty above all in minimal pairs as learners produce word/syllable repetitions, a consonant strengthening or a long pause inserted between the two terms. This means that through the MPT, learners show a greater awareness in distinguishing geminates from singletons and increase their self-correction attempts. Finally, in order to produce the L2 sounds without difficulty, more practice is needed as well the use of the MPT in perceptual and in teaching activities.

Keywords: Geminate, minimal pairs, Italian-L2.


  1. Tuan  (2010), Teaching English discrete sounds though minimal pairs, Journal of Language Teaching and Research, Vol.1(5).
  2. Sulistyaningsih, Sada, Arifin, (2014), Teaching pronunciation to differentiate phoneme /p/ and /f/ by using Minimal Pairs Technique, Jurnal Pendidikan Dan Pembelajaran, Vol.3(7).
  3. Fatmawati, Ohoiwutun, Thamrin, (2014), The application of minimal pairs to improve the pronunciation of voiced and voiceless sounds, ELTS, Vol.2(1).
  4. Nuraeni, (2015), The Effectiveness of Minimal Pairs towards Students’ English Pronunciation, Dissertation.
  5. d’Apolito, Gili Fivela, (2021;accepted paper), Context and co-text influence on the accuracy production of Italian L2 non-native sounds, Interspeech.

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