I have excluded from the list several pairs thrown up by the program in which /i/ is contrasted with /ɪə/ where it appears to be two syllables and not a diphthong, eg draftee/draughtier, e'en/Ian oversee/overseer, protein/protean and trustee/trustier.
The /i/ vowel appears in all its common spellings, including the letter names B, C, D, E, G, P, T and V, as well as the musical note names mi and ti. The diphthong /ɪə/ appears as <eer>, <ear>, <eCe> in mere, <ier> in pierce and <eir> in weir and weird.
This set may be a problem for some learners, and even some native speakers, since the tongue positions are very similar and all that is different is the monophthong versus diphthong contrast. Speakers of rhotic varieties rely on the post-vocalic -r to distinguish the sounds, and may have trouble with the contrast as made by RP speakers.
The pairs pee/pier and wee/weir with their inflections are the only ones which might cause embarrassment.
Interesting pairs include:
The mean density value is 2.5%. There 87 semantic contrasts, giving a semantic loading of 65%.
appease appears B beer B's beers B bier B's biers be beer be bier bead beard beading bearding beads beards bee beer bees beers bee bier bees biers C sear C's sears C seer C's seers C sere cede seared cheese cheers D dear D's dears D deer E ear E's ears ease ears fee fear fees fears feed feared G jeer G's jeers gee jeer ghee gear he hear he here indeed endeared knead neared knee near knees nears kneed neared lea leer leas leers lead leered lean lien leans liens lee leer lees leers Leigh leer me mere mealie merely mi mere need neared P peer P's peers P pier P's piers pea peer peas peers pea pier peas piers peace pierce pease peers pease piers pee peer peed peered pees peers pee pier pees piers piece pierce pieced pierced pieces pierces piecing piercing quiche kirsch re rear re rhea read reared reed reared reel real sea sear seas sears sea seer seas seers sea sere see sear sees sears see seer sees seers see sere seed seared seize sears seize seers she shear she sheer sneeze sneers speed speared steed steered T tear T's tears T tier T's tiers tea tear teas tears tea tier teas tiers tease tears tease tiers tee tear tees tears tee tier tees tiers ti tear ti tier V veer V's veers we Wear we weir we'd weird wee Wear wee weir wees weirs weed weird weedy weirdie wheeze weirs ye yearGeographical: Outside English-speaking countries, most visitors are from Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Venezuela, Vietnam, Jordan, Turkey, South Korea, Yemen, Brazil, Japan, Ecuador, Poland, Malaysia and India. Average 14 visitors per month.
John Higgins, Shaftesbury, January 2011.