Consonants /p/ versus //, 73 pairs     [panthan.html]

The spelling of /p/ is either <p> or <pp>. The // sound occurs initially only in function words where it is spelled <th>. This limits the number of contrasts with initial /p/, though this is extended by including contracted forms such as they'll and there's. When // occurs medially or finally it is usually spelled <the> or <th> before <i>. I have included inflected forms where the contrast is final, such as reaped/wreathed and reaps/wreathes, even though these are not striuctly minimal.

The contrast is between a voiceless stop and a voiced fricative, well separated in the mouth so that confusions are unlikely, even though // is a difficult sound for many learners.

Interesting pairs include

dipper dither
leper leather
pence thence
slipper slither
upper other
zipper zither

The mean density value is 1%. The list makes 52 semantic distinctions, a loading of 71%.

dipper dither
  dippers dithers
leper leather 
  lepers leathers 
lope loathe 
  loping loathing 
  lopes loathes
P thee
P's these
paid they'd
pail they'll
pair their
  pairs theirs
pair there
pair they're
pairs there's
pale they'll
pan than
pare their
  pares theirs
pare there
pare they're
pares there's
pat that
pats that's
pattered that'd
pave they've
pay they
pea thee
pear their
  pears theirs
pear there
pear they're
pears there's
peas these
pease these
pee thee
pees these
pen then
pence thence
pi thy
pie thy
pine thine
piss this
poppas pothers
pose those
P's these
pus thus
reap wreathe
  reaping wreathing
  reaped wreathed
  reaps wreathes
ripe writhe
seep seethe
  seeping seething
  seeped seethed
  seeps seethes
sheep sheathe 
slipper slither
  slippered slithered
  slippers slithers
  slippery slithery
soup soothe 
  souping soothing 
  soups soothes
type tithe 
  types tithes
upper other 
  uppers others 
whip with
whippy withy
zipper zither
  zippers zithers

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, January 2010.