Minimal pairs in sign language (ASL)
In phonology, minimal pairs are pairs of words in a language that differ in only one phonological unit such as a phoneme (spoken language) or a prime (signed language).
Each signed word consists of all the parameters: handshape, movement, location, palm orientation, and non-manual signal/marker. If one of these paramaters (or primes) differs in a signed word, it may result in a different meaning or sometimes meaningless (or "misspelling", metaphorically).
An example of the minimal pairs in English are: pin and bin, pat and pit, soul and soup, and so on endless. In American Sign Language (ASL), the following examples of minimal pairs are categorized into four parameters (based on the dominance of the signs).
The handshape paramater has over 40 handshapes or "handshape primes" in ASL. ASL words school (left) and impossible (right) both have the same parameters of location, movement and palm orientation but they have different handshapes.
Here is some a list of minimal pairs that contrast in handshape in ASL:
SORRY / PLEASE
RED / SWEET
CAR / WHICH
WEEKLY / BIWEEKLY
FEEL / HAPPY
LOCK ("2") / JAIL ("5")
These ASL words apple (left) and onion (right) have the same handshape, movement, and palm orientation, but they have a different location which results in a different meaning.
Here is some a list of minimal pairs that contrast in location:
MOTHER / FATHER
NOSE / DISAPPOINTED (both repeated twice)
SO-SHORT (height) / TALL
DOCTOR / KNOW
EARRING / NOSERING
TIME / FINLAND
These ASL words airplane and fly have the same parameters except for the movement. The former one has the repeated movement and the latter one has one movement.
Another example is that these ASL words chair and to-sit have the same parameters or primes except for the movement. The former one has one movement and the latter one has the repetition.
Here is some a list of minimal pairs that contrast in movement:
ALWAYS / SCOLD
VERSUS / GAME
SCHOOL / PAPER
WEEK / WEEKLY, MONTH / MONTHLY
SUNRISE / SUNSET
SOMETIMES / ONCE
Palm orientation parameter
These ASL words balance (left image) and maybe (right image) have the same parameters: handshape, location and movement, but the palm orientations of these signed words are different.
Here is some a list of minimal pairs with a different palm orientation:
MORNING / NIGHT
LOOK-AT-ME / LOOK-AT-YOU and many other verb directionality (e.g. ASK-ME / ASK-YOU / ASK-her, and so on).
A well-known difference between two signs that contrast in non-manual sign (NMS) is LATE and NOT-YET ("TH" mouth morpheme).
You may be also interested in co-articulation in sign language