Consonants /d/ versus /Ɵ/, 158 pairs     [midmyth.html]

The spelling of /d/ in this list is <d> or <dd>. The /Ɵ/ sound is spelled <th>.

The contrast is between a voiced plosive and a voiceless fricative, close together in the mouth. It is a problem for many learners, especially French, Italian and Chinese. The distinction in voicing may help, but the use of the <th> spelling for both /Ɵ/ and // is potentially confusing for learners. Particular problems may arise in final clusters where /Ɵ/ is part of an abstract noun or an ordinal number, such as the sets filled/filth, weld/wealth, ten/tend/tenth or thousand/thousandth. Even native speakers may encounter confusions here.

Interesting pairs include:

dearest theorist
dirty thirty
endues enthuse
gnawed north
slewed sleuth
strewed strewth

The mean density value is 1.5%, but there is a very large discrepancy in frequency between the two sounds, with /d/ occurring in over 19,000 words while /Ɵ/ occurs in under 1,600. The list makes 90 semantic distinctions, a loading of 67%.

 
ardour Arthur 
baa'd bath	  
bard bath
  bards baths
barred bath  
bead Beith 
bird berth 
  birds berths
bode both	
body bothy
bread breath
  breads breaths
cad Kath 
clod cloth
  clods cloths
dacha thatcher
  dachas thatchers
Dane thane
  Danes thanes
dank thank
daw thaw
  daws thaws
daw Thor
dawn thorn
  dawns thorns
dead death
  deadly deathly
dearest theorist
dearie theory
  dearies theories
deft theft	  
deign thane
  deigns thanes
deism theism
deist theist
  deists theists
Dereham theorem
Di thigh
Dick thick
dicker thicker
die thigh
  dies thighs
din thin
  dinned thinned
  dinning thinning
  dins thins
dinner thinner
dirty thirty
  dirties thirties
dole thole
  doles tholes
door thaw
  doors thaws
door Thor
Doug thug
drawl thrall
  drawls thralls
dread thread
  dreaded threaded
  dreading threading
drew threw
drew through
drift thrift
drill thrill
  drilled thrilled
  drilling thrilling
  drills thrills
drive thrive
  drives thrives
  driving thriving
  drove throve
drone throne
  drones thrones
drone thrown
drum thrum
  drummed thrummed
  drumming thrumming
  drums thrums
dud doth 
dud thud
  duds thuds
dues thews
dug thug
  dugs thugs
dumb thumb
  dumbs thumbs	   
  dumbing thumbing
  dumbed thumbed
dump thump
  dumped thumped
  dumping thumping
  dumps thumps
durable thurible
  durables thuribles
durst thirst
endues enthuse
erred earth 
fade faith
filled filth
ford forth	 
ford fourth
  fords fourths	
furred firth  
gird girth	 
  girds girths
gnawed north
god Goth
  gods Goths
had hath
hard hearth
heed heath
held health 
keyed Keith 
kid kith
knead 'neath 
kneed 'neath
lard lath
load loath
mead Meath 
mid myth
mod moth
mowed mouth 
need 'neath
ode oath 
order author 
  orders authors 
overdrew overthrew
panda panther
  pandas panthers
pander panther
  panders panthers
purred Perth 
raid wraith	  
  raids wraiths
road wroth
rod wrath
rode wroth
rood ruth 	 
rowed wroth
rude ruth  
rued ruth
said saith
slewed sleuth 
slowed sloth 
strewed strewth
sward swath
teed teeth
tend tenth	   
  tends tenths
thousand thousandth
trued truth
warmed warmth
weld wealth    
welled wealth
whirred worth
word worth
  wordless worthless
you'd youth

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, February 2010.