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19 Cute Minimal Pairs in Kelantan Malay

October 23, 2010

It’s not easy to come up with nice pairs of words that minimally contrast between Single and Double Consonants in Kelantan Malay. Sometimes I feel like an old greasy matchmaker living deep on the forested mountain trying to find a perfect match for auspicious marriages. I’m not talking about one pair, but 19 pairs! So as a responsible matchmaker who has a reputation for long-lasting marriages and tonnes of kids, I have to go and search into 10 remote territories of sounds, exploring into the wild jungle of words in my brain, consulting the other matchmakers who could give me some clues. I have to be extra careful when selecting these pairs, deeply scrutinizing their phonetic attributes, harshly digging into their semantic implications.

Ideally, they must be of two different characters but with almost similar personalities, being different in only one aspect. They are like the same person looking at each other through a mirror, except one has a mole on the left, while the other on the right. But even if they are the same, I have to double check and scan them through again. I don’t want to end up getting a pair of a similar gender, allowing the first and ever same-sex marriage in Kelantan (which is a completely hellish oddity!). So after much persuasion and slick strategies only a good single matchmaker like me can suavely perform, I finally found 19 minimal pairs in Kelantan Malay, ready to be royally wedded.

And that Royal Mass Wedding finally took place recently through my Speaking Experiment. These young and sweet pairs effectively demonstrate a distinction between initial singleton consonants (Single Consonants) and initial geminate consonants (Double Consonants, or famously known among the Kelantanese as Sakdu, a word literally borrowed from an Arabic “Sabdu”). All the words from each pair are disyllabic, containing two syllables with either C(C)VCV or C(C)VCVC structures (C=Consonant, V=Vowel, and the bracketed “C” is a possible gemination). I chose 10 consonants (that number 10 again!) that are grouped into three:

1. Voiceless Stops (/p/-/pp/, /t/-/tt/, /k/-/kk/)
2. Voiced Stops (/b/-/bb/, /d/-/dd/, /g/-/gg/)
3. Sonorants (/m/-/mm/, /n/-/nn/, /ŋ/-/ŋŋ/, /l/-/ll/)

Each of these consonant pairs are followed by 2 distinct vowels: high front vowel /i/ and low back vowel /a/ (except for /ŋ/-/ŋŋ/). Okay okay, I know you are excited. Kompang? Bunga manggar? Pulut kuning? Ready? Alright. Tuan-Tuan, Puan-Puan, Makcik-Makcik, Pakcik-Pakcik, Abang-Abang, Kakak-Kakak, all the residents of Kampung Pening Lalat – here is a famous procession of 19 Cute Minimal Pairs in Kelantan Malay:

1. /p/

/pitu/ “door” vs. /ppitu/ “at the door”
/pagi/ “morning” vs. /ppagi/ “early morning”

2. /t/

/tido/ “sleep” vs. /ttido/ “to sleep by chance”
/tanɔh/ “land” vs. /ttanɔh/ “outside”

3. /k/

/kiɣi/ “left” vs. /kkiɣi/ “to the left”
/kabo/ “blurry” vs. /kkabo/ “a beetle”

4. /b/

/bini/ “wife” vs. /bbini/ “married”
/baçɔ/ “read” vs. /bbaçɔ/ “is reading”

5. /d/

/dike/ “dikir (a Kelantanese song)” vs. /ddike/ “to sing (the dikir)”
/dapo/ “kitchen” vs. /ddapo/ “at the kitchen”

6. /g/

/gigi/ “teeth” vs. /ggigi/ “on the teeth”
/gaŒʝi/ “salary” vs. /ggaŒʝi/ “a sawing tool”

7. /m/

/misa/ “mustache” vs. /mmisa/ “mustached”
/maɣi/ “to come” vs. /mmaɣi/ “a cupboard”

8. /n/

/nikɔh/ “marriage” vs. /nnikɔh/ “getting married”
/nanɔh/ “pus” vs. /nnanɔh/ “containing pus”

9. /l/

/lidɔh/ “tongue” vs. /llidɔh/ “on the tongue”
/lapu/ “lights” vs. /llapu/ “on the lights”

10. /ŋ/

/ŋaŋɔ/ “open the mouth” vs. /ŋŋaŋɔ/ “wide agape”

14 Comments leave one →
  1. ikpunye permalink
    October 23, 2010 9:46 pm

    ..dan pemenang untuk kategori ‘datuk telangkai’ jatuh kepada….. Hilmi Hamzah
    tepuk tepuk tepuk…. Err 1 minit je yer bagi ucapan.. 🙂


  2. October 24, 2010 3:03 am

    pergghh… gganah molek bey! wak mmolek deh!

    jange wak lolok…ngeh3!
    jom aaa turun K.B! I’m in town ……again!


  3. October 24, 2010 3:04 am

    …but why are they CUTE???


  4. October 26, 2010 5:41 pm

    Angelina’s respond: ŋaŋɔ

    har har har … purrr…meow!


  5. janz permalink
    November 19, 2010 11:50 pm

    i am interested in your kelantanese dialect research. may you give me some of your findings on this beautiful dialect. 😀


    • November 20, 2010 10:38 am

      I’m going to present the preliminary findings at a conference in Melbourne this December. Will keep you posted.


  6. janz permalink
    November 20, 2010 6:23 pm

    ohh really geezer. I hope it going to be a significance findings for us all. good luck for you. Hopefully I will get continuous updates from you. thanks!


  7. marina permalink
    February 28, 2011 12:10 am

    was googling ‘minimal pairs in malay’ and was directed to your blog. glad to know there ARE minimal pairs in malay. is there any in standard malay? and is there any way i can cite you? hehehe….


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