Vowels 11 and 15, /3/ versus /ɔɪ/     35 pairs       [earloil.html]

The /3/ vowel is spelled with <er>, <ir>, <ear>, <ur> and <our> in adjourn. The /ɔɪ/ vowel is spelled <oi> or <oy>.

This is a contrast between a long vowel and a diphthong. The starting positions are fairly close but it does not seem to be a problem for many learners. However the merging of these two sounds, so turning earl and oil into homophones, is a characteristic of an old-fashioned form of the New York accent, as represented in some gangster fiction, some of P.G.Wodehouse's novels, and the musical Guys and Dolls.

Interesting pairs include:

curly coyly

The density figure is 4.46%. The set makes 17 semantic contrasts giving a loading of 48.6%.

adjourn adjoin 
  adjourned adjoined 
  adjourning adjoining 
  adjourns adjoins 
averred avoid
bird buoyed		  
burr boy
  burrs boys 
burr buoy
  burrs buoys  
curl coil 
  curled coiled 
  curling coiling 
  curls coils 
curly coyly 
curt quoit
earl oil
  earls oils
early oily
  earlier oilier
  earliest oiliest
first foist
  firsts foists
furl foil 
  furled foiled 
  furling foiling 
  furls foils 
inverse invoice
learn loin
  learns loins
purrs poise 
turd toyed 
verse voice
  versed voiced
  verses voices

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, December 2009