Vowels 4 and 11, // versus /3/    173 pairs      [patpert.html]

The // vowel is spelled <a> followed by two consonants or by one consonant in a monosyllable. The /3/ vowel is spelled with many different combinations of one or two vowels plus <r> as in earn, jerk, flirt, work and turn. None of these pairs will be minimal for speakers of rhotic accents (those accents in which /r/ may occur before other consonants or silence).

This is a contrast bewteen a short and a long vowel and causes few problems for learners, though it is a recognised difficulty for Swahili speakers.

There is one taboo word pairing: shat/shirt.

Interesting pairs include:

banish burnish
farrier furrier
madder murder
salmon sermon
Stanley sternly

The mean density is 2.4%. The pairs make 95 semantic contrasts, giving a loading of 55%.

act irked
ad erred
add erred
Al earl
Ali early
and earned
Ann earn
Annie Ernie
as errs
ax irks
babble burble
  babbled burbled
  babbles burbles
  babbling burbling
back burke
  backed burked
  backing burking
  backs burkes
bad bird
bag berg
  bags bergs
bally Burley 
ban Bern 
ban burn
  banned burned
  banning burning
  bans burns
banish burnish
  banished burnished
  banishes burnishes
  banishing burnishing
banner burner
  banners burners
bant burnt
bast burst
bat Bert 
batch birch
  batches birches
Batley Birtley
batten burton
  battens burtons
batty Bertie 
blab blurb
  blabs blurbs
cab curb
  cabs curbs
cabby Kirkby 
cad curd
  cads curds
cat curt
cattle kirtle
chap chirp
  chapped chirped
  chapping chirping
  chaps chirps
dandle dirndl
  dandles dirndls
fallow furlough
fan fern
  fans ferns
Fanny ferny
farrier furrier
flat flirt
  flats flirts
gad gird
  gadded girded
  gadding girding
  gads girds
gaggle gurgle
  gaggles gurgles
gal girl
  gals girls
GATT girt
had heard
Hal hurl
has hers
hats hertz
jack jerk
  jacked jerked
  jacking jerking
  jacks jerks
Jackie jerky
jam germ 
  jams germs
jamb germ
  jambs germs 
jazzes jerseys
jazzy Jersey 
lack lurk
  lacked lurked
  lacking lurking
  lacks lurks
land learned
latch lurch
  latched lurched
  latches lurches
  latching lurching
mac murk
madder murder
Madge merge
mammon merman
masses mercies
massy mercy
navvy nervy
pack perk
  packed perked
  packing perking
  packs perks
pad purred
pal pearl 
  palled pearled
  palling pearling
  pals pearls
pally pearly
  pallier pearlier
  palliest pearliest
Pam perm
passion Persian 
  passions Persians 
patch perch
  patched perched
  patches perches
  patching perching
quack quirk
  quacks quirks
salmon sermon
sapless surplus
sat cert 
savant servant
savants servants
scat skirt
shack shirk
  shacked shirked
  shacking shirking
  shacks shirks
shat shirt
smack smirk
  smacked smirked
  smacking smirking
  smacks smirks
spam sperm
span spurn
  spanned spurned
  spanning spurning
  spans spurns
spat spirt
  spats spirts
  spatted spirted
  spatting spirting
Stan stern
Stanley sternly
tack Turk 
  tacks Turks 
tacky Turkey 
tan tern
  tans terns
tan turn
  tanned turned
  tanning turning
  tans turns
tanner turner
  tanners turners
taps turps
tattle turtle
  tattles turtles
tax Turks
wax works
whack work
  whacked worked
  whacker worker
  whackers workers
  whacking working
  whackings workings
Geographical: Outside English-speaking countries, most visitors are from Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Lithuania, Costa Rica, Vietnam, Taiwan, Philippines, Germany, Hungary, Yemen and South Korea. Average 25 visitors per month.

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, January 2011