Vowels 10 and 11, /ʌ/ versus /3/    134 pairs       [cullcurl.html]

The /ʌ/ vowel is always spelled with <u>. The /3/ vowel is spelled <er>, <ir> or <ur>. Notice the homograph furrier. I have doubts about the status of the pair cuss/curse, since these are really just variant spellings of the same word, but they have slightly different distributions.

This is a contrast between a short and a long vowel with similar tongue positions. Speakers who have post-vocalic -r, such as Scots and most American, will not treat this distinction as a vowel difference. It tends not to be too great a problem for learners, since most of them will treat /ʌ/ as a variant of // and will replace /3/ with some version of /e/ or /eə/.

Taboo word pairs include: bugger/burgher.

Interesting pairs include:

colour curler
summon sermon
supplest surpliced
study sturdy

The density figure is 4.35%. The set makes 75 semantic contrasts giving a loading of 56%.

bug berg 
  bugs bergs
bun Bern 
bunny Bernie 
bud bird 
  buds birds
blood blurred
bubble burble
  bubbled burbled
  bubbles burbles
  bubbling burbling
buck burke
  bucked burked
  bucking burking
  bucks burkes
bugger burgher
  buggers burghers
buns burns
buzz burrs 
bused burst
bust burst
  busts bursts
  busting bursting
button burton
  buttons burtons
colour curler
  colours curlers
cub curb
  cubs curbs
cud curd
cuddle curdle
  cuddling curdling
  cuddles curdles
  cuddled curdled
cull curl
  culled curled
  culling curling
  culls curls
cuss curse 
  cussed cursed
  cussedly cursedly
  cusses curses
cut curt 
dove derv 
duck dirk
  ducks dirks
dost durst
fun fern 
funny ferny 
  funnier fernier 
  funniest ferniest 
furrier furrier
fussed first 
fuzz firs
gull girl 
  gulls girls
govern Girvan 
hub herb
  hubs herbs
Hun Herne 
huddle hurdle
  huddled hurdled
  huddles hurdles
  huddling hurdling
hull hurl
  hulled hurled
  hulling hurling
  hulls hurls
hurt hut
luck lurk
luxe lurks
musses mercies
mutton Merton
muck murk
mucky murky
  muckier murkier
  muckiest murkiest
mummer murmur
  mummers murmurs
puck perk 
  pucks perks
putt pert
pus purse
scuff scurf
scull skirl
  sculls skirls
scut skirt
  scuts skirts
sough serf 
  soughs serfs 
sough surf 
  soughs surfs 
  soughing surfing
summon sermon 
  summons sermons 
shuck shirk 
  shucked shirked 
  shucking shirking 
shut shirt 
  shutting shirting 
  shuts shirts 
Shucks shirks
spud spurred
spun spurn
stun stern
  stuns sterns
stunner sterner 
stud stirred
study sturdy
suckle circle 
  suckled circled 
  suckles circles 
  suckling circling 
suds surds
sully surly
supplest surpliced
Sutton certain
ton tern 
  tons terns
ton turn
  tons turns
thumb therm 
  thumbs therms 
thud third 
  thuds thirds 
tough turf
  toughs turfs
tunny tourney
  tunnies tourneys 
tuft turfed
tups turps
tuck Turk
  tucks Turks  
us errs  

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, December 2009