/i/ versus /ʊə/   40 pairs     [teatour.html]

The /ʊə/ diphthong ranks eighteenth in frequency among the English vowels, which partly accounts for the shortness of this list.

39 of the 40 pairs are monosyllables. Spellings of /i/ include <ee>, <ea>, the letter names B, D, P and T, the musical note names mi and ti, Spellings of /ʊə/ are <oor>, <ure>, and <our>, together with the exceptional <ewe> and <ue> in crewel/cruel.

There might be some dispute over the <lure> spelling, as to whether there is palatalisation and whether that would render these pairs non-minimal. Note the partial homograph tours, plural of tour, and Tours, the French city with an anglicised vowel sound.

The mean density value is 1%. The 40 pairs make 31 semantic contrasts, giving a high loading of 78%.

alee allure
B boor
  B's boors
be boor
bean bourne
  beans bournes
bee boor
  bees boors
been bourne	
creel crewel
  creels crewels
creel cruel
D dour
lea lure
  leas lures
lead lured
lee lure
  lees lures
me moor
mead moored
meed moored
mi moor
P poor
pea poor
pee poor
she sure
T tour
  T's tours
T Tours
tea tour
tea Tours
teas tours
tease tours
tee tour
  teed toured
  tees tours
tee Tours
ti tour
ti Tours
ye you're

Geographical: Outside English-speaking countries, most visitors are from Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Yemen, Japan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Jordan, Taiwan, RO Korea, Norway, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Poland, Malaysia and India. Average 17 visitors per month.

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, January 2011.