The /ɑ/ vowel is usually spelled <ar> but we also find <a> in bra and <aa> in baa, along with the letter name R. The /eɪ/ diphthong is most often spelled <aCe> as in bake, but there is also <ai> in aim, <ay> in bay and <ei> in eight, along with the letter names A, H, J and K. Notice the occurrence of the homograph baas in different pairs and the homograph grave forming a pair. The pair hurrah/hurray is of doubtful status since, although the spellings and pronunciations are consistently distinguished, there is hardly any difference of meaning.
This contrast is between a long vowel and a diphthong whose tongue positions are well separated. Confusions are more likely to be due to inconsistent spelling rather than the sounds themselves.
There are two sets of pairs involving a taboo word: arse/ace and fart/fate.
Interesting pairs include:
The density value is 5.05%. The pairs make 115 semantic contrasts, giving a loading of 55%.
ah A alms aims arc ache arcs aches ark ache ark aches arch H arches H's aren't ain't argent agent argue ague argues agues arm aim armed aimed arming aiming arms aims army Amy arse ace arses aces art eight arts eights arty eighty baa bay baaing baying baas bays baas baize baas base barb babe barbs babes barbel babel barbels babels bark bake barked baked barking baking barks bakes barker baker barkers bakers barley Bailey barn bane Bart bait baths bathes behalves behaves bookmarker bookmaker bookmarkers bookmakers bra brae bras braes bra bray bras brays brass brace brasses braces calm came calve cave calved caved calves caves calving caving Carl kail carp cape carps capes car K cars K's cart Kate carter cater carters caters cast cased chaff chafe chaffed chafed chaffing chafing chaffs chafes darn Dane darn Danes darn deign darned deigned darning deigning darns deigns dart date darted dated darting dating darts dates escarpment escapement escarpments escapements fa fey farce face farces faces farm fame farmed famed farms fames fart fate farted fated farting fating farts fates fart fête farting fêting farted fêted farts fêtes fast faced garble gable garbled gabled garbles gables garbling gabling garlic Gaelic garter gaiter garters gaiters gnarled nailed grass grace grassed graced grasses graces grassing gracing grave grave graves graves Graz grates ha hay hark hake Harlow halo harness heinous hart hate harts hates Harwood Heywood heart hate hearted hated hearts hates hearty Haiti hurrah hurray jarred jade jar J jars J's khan cane khans canes la lay lakh lake lakhs lakes larboard laboured lard lade larding lading larn lane larns lanes last laced lath lathe laths lathes ma May marble Mabel mark make marker maker markers makers marking making markings makings marks makes mark-up make-up mark-ups make-ups marl mail Marple maple marred made Mars Mays mart mate marts mates pa pay parlour paler parrs pays part pate parts pates pass pace passed paced passes paces passing pacing past paste pasts pastes past paced plant plaint plants plaints psalm same quark quake quarks quakes rah Ray remand remained R A R's A's shahs chaise shard shade shards shades shark shake sharks shakes sharp shape sharply shapely sharps shapes Slav slave Slavs slaves snarl snail snarls snails spa spay spas spays spar spay spars spays sparred spayed sparred spade spark spake sparse space star stay stars stays starred stayed starred staid stark stake starling staling start state started stated starting stating starts states starve stave starved staved starves staves starving staving yah yea
John Higgins, Shaftesbury, November 2009