The /3/ vowel is spelled with <er>, <ir>, <ear>, <ur>, and <our> in tourney. The /aʊ/ diphthong is spelled <ou> or <ow>.
This is a contrast between a long vowel and a diphthong. The starting positions are fairly close, but it is not a problem for any learners.
Interesting pairs include:
The density figure is 3.51%. The set makes 40 semantic contrasts giving a loading of 53.3%.
aver avow averred avowed avers avows bird bowed blurs blouse burned bound burr bough burrs boughs burr bow burrs bows curd cowed curl cowl curling cowling curls cowls cur cow curs cows dirt doubt dirty doughty dirtied doubted durst doused earl owl earls owls flirt flout flirted flouted flirting flouting flirts flouts furl foul furled fouled furling fouling furls fouls Gertie gouty hearse house her how hers house hurl howl hurled howled hurling howling hurls howls mercies mouses mercy mousy mirth mouth nurse nous perch pouch perched pouched perches pouches perching pouching pert pout shirt shout shirting shouting shirts shouts sir sow sirs sows skirl scowl skirls scowls skirt scout skirted scouted skirting scouting skirts scouts slur slough slurs sloughs spirt spout spirted spouted spirting spouting spirts spouts spurs spouse tern town terns towns turn twon turns towns tourney townee tourneys townees were wow whirr wow whirrs wows yearling yowling
John Higgins, Shaftesbury, December 2009