Vowels 5 and 13, /ɑ/ versus //    209 pairs      [armaim.html]

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 // 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:

bookmarker bookmaker
carter cater
harness heinous
remand remained
snarl snail

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'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