Vowels 1 and 2, /i/ versus /ɪ/   466 pairs     [feetfit.html]

The /i/ vowel is typically spelled with <ee>, <ea>, <eCe> (gene), <iCe> (litre), or <ie> (piece, wield), and occurs in the letter names E and V. There are many other irregular spellings not found in this list such as <eo> (people). The /ɪ/ vowel is normally <i> in a monosyllable or before a doubled consonant, and is often <e> in an unstressed inflection (rushes, wanted) or <y>.

This set includes the two homograph pairs

axes, plural of axis and plural of axe,
bases, plural of basis and plural of base.
In addition there are the several homograph pairs decoy, defect, defile, rebound, etc, which also differ in stress, having front stress when nouns and end stress when verbs. I have also included several other pairs which may differ in stress, such as antique versus antic, or trustee and trusty, and pairs in which two occurrences of the one sound are in contrast with two of the other, such as PT versus pity. I am not quite sure of the status of gelatine v. gelatin, where the variant spellings seem to associate with different pronunciations. Since there is no change of meaning, is this a minimal pair? (A related case is saccharine versus saccharin, but in that case it seems to me that either spelling may receive either pronunciation.)

Several singular/plural pairs in learned words or loan words occur, such as ellipsis/ellipses and dilettante/dilettanti.

Not many languages have two vowel phonemes so close together in this region of the mouth, so that the /i/ versus /ɪ/ distinction is a problem for many learners, especially for speakers of French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Greek, Farsi, Chinese, and many African languages.

This contrast is used memorably by Cole Porter in the words of his song Begin the Beguine. Other interesting pairs include:

Caesar's scissors
scenically cynically
cervices services (with the distinction in the last syllable)
forefeet forfeit
litre litter
lever liver
Parsees passes
reason risen
re-sole rissole
streaked strict
treacle trickle
tureen Turin.

There are several pairs which distinguish <re> pronounced /ri/ meaning “again” from <re> pronounced /rɪ / meaning “back”, namely re-join/rejoin, re-mark/remark, re-seed/recede and re-proof/reproof; there may be more such pairs not listed in this dictionary.

This is also a distinction which accounts for three of the potentially embarrassing taboo word confusions: peace and piss, penis and pinnace, and sheet and shit.

The mean density figure is 2.1%. The semantic loading is 53%.

antique antic
  antiques antics
Aries eyries
artiste artist
  artistes artists
axes axes
B's biz
bailee bailey
  bailees baileys
bargees barges
bases bases
bases basses
beach bitch
  beached bitched
  beaches bitches
  beaching bitching
bead bid
  beading bidding
  beads bids
beaker bicker
  beakers bickers
bean bin
  beans bins
beat bit
  beaten bitten
beats bits
beater bitter
  beaters bitters
beech bitch
beef biff
  beefed biffed
  beefing biffing
  beefs biffs
been bin
bees biz
beet bit
  beets bits
beta bitter
  betas bitters
bleats blitz
bleep blip
  bleeps blips
bootee booty
breaches breeches
bream brim
Caesars scissors
cc sissy
ceased cyst
ceases cissies
cede Sid
Celia sillier
cervices services
cheap chip
cheat chit
  cheats chits
cheek chick
  cheeks chicks
cheep chip
  cheeped chipped
  cheeping chipping
  cheeps chips
crease Chris
clique click
  cliques clicks
colleen Colin
creak crick
  creaked cricked
  creaking cricking
  creaks cricks
crease Chris
creek crick
  creeks cricks
deal dill
dean din
  deans dins
decoy decoy
  decoys decoys
deed did
deem dim
  deemed dimmed
  deeming dimming
  deems dims
deep dip
  deeper dipper
  deeps dips
defect defect
  defects defects
defile defile
  defiles defiles
defuse diffuse
  defused diffused
dilettanti dilettante
draftee draughty
DTs ditties
E's is
e'en in
e'en inn
each itch
ease is
eat it
  eats its
  eats it's
eel ill
  eels ills
ellipses ellipsis
feast fist
  feasts fists
feat fit
  feats fits
feel Phil
feel fill
  feeling filling
  feelings fillings
  feels fills
fees fizz
feet fit
field filled
fleet flit
  fleeting flitting
  fleets flits
forefeet forfeit
foresees forces
freely frilly
frees frizz
  freezes frizzes
  freezing frizzing
freesia frizzier
freeze frizz
frieze frizz
gelatine gelatin
Gene djinn
gene djinn
  genes djinns
Gene gin
gene gin
  genes gins
glebe glib
greased grist
greed grid
green grin
  greens grins
greet grit
  greeted gritted
  greeting gritting
  greets grits
grippe grip
  grippes grips
guarantee guaranty
  guarantees guaranties
heal hill
  heals hills
heap hip
  heaps hips
heat hit
  heater hitter
  heats hits
  heating hitting
heed hid
heel hill
  heels hills
jean djinn
  jeans djinns
Jean djinn
jean gin
  jeans gins
Jean gin
jeep gyp
  jeeps gyps
keel kill
  keeled killed
  keeling killing
  keels kills
keen kin
keep kip
  keeper kipper
  keepers kippers
  keeping kipping
  keeps kips
Keith kith
keyed kid
kneel nil
lead lid
  leads lids
leafed lift
leak lick
  leaked licked
  leaking licking
  leaks licks
lean Lynn
leap lip
  leaped lipped
  leaps lips
leas Liz
leased list
least list
leave live
  leaves lives
  leaving living
  leavings livings
Leeds lids
leek lick
  leeks licks
lees Liz
lever liver
  levers livers
lied lit
litre litter
  litres litters
leas Liz
mead mid
meal mill
  meals mills
measles mizzles
meat mitt
  meats mitts
Meath myth
meek Mick
mealie Millie
meet mitt
  meets mitts
mete mitt
  metes mitts
neap nip
  neaps nips
neat knit
  neater knitter
neat nit
Neil nil
Parsees passes
peace piss
peach pitch
  peached pitched
  peaches pitches
  peaching pitching
peak pick
  peaked picked
  peaking picking
  peaks picks
peaks pyx
peal pill
  peals pills
peat pit
peek pick
  peeked picked
  peeking picking
  peeks picks
peeks pyx
peel pill
  peels pills
peeler pillar
  peelers pillars
peep pip
  peeping pipping
  peeped pipped
  peeps pips
peke pick
  pekes picks
pekes pyx
penis pinnace
  penises pinnaces
Pete pit
pique pick
  piqued picked
  piquing picking
  piques picks
piece piss
  pieced pissed
  pieces pisses
  piecing pissing
peal pill
piques pyx
prima primmer
PT pity
queen quin
  queens quins
reach rich
  reaches riches
read rid
  reading ridding
  reads rids	 
real rill  
ream rim
  reams rims
reap rip
  reaped ripped
  reaping ripping
  reaps rips
reason risen
rebound rebound
  rebounds rebounds
reed rid
  reeds rids
reef riff
  reefed rift
  reefs riffs
reek rick
  reeks ricks
  reeked ricked
  reeked ricked
  reeking ricking
reek wrick
  reeked wricked
  reeking wricking
  reeks wricks
reel Rhyl
reel rill
  reels rills
refund refund
  refunds refunds
reject reject
  rejects rejects
re-join rejoin
  re-joined rejoined
  re-joins rejoins
re-mark remark
  re-marks remarks
  re-marked remarked
  re-marking remarking
re-proof reproof
  re-proofs reproofs
reseed recede
  reseeded receded
  reseeds recedes
  reseeding receding
re-sole rissole
  re-soles rissoles
Rheims rims
Riga rigger
Riga rigour
scene sin
  scenes sins
scenic cynic
  scenically cynically
schema skimmer
  schemas skimmers
scheme skim
  schemed skimmed
  schemer skimmer
  schemes skims
  scheming skimming
seal sill
  seals sills
sealer Scylla
  sealers Scyllas
seat sit
  seater sitter
  seats sits
  seating sitting
seed Sid
seek sic
seek sick
  seeking sicking
  seeks sicks
seeks six
seen sin
seep sip
  seeped sipped
  seeping sipping
  seeps sips
sheen shin
sheep ship
sheet shit
  sheeting shitting
  sheets shits
Sikh sic
Sikh sick
  Sikhs sicks
Sikhs six
skeet skit
  skeets skits
ski'd skid
sleek slick
  sleeker slicker
  sleekest slickest
  sleeks slicks
sleep slip
  sleeper slipper
  sleepers slippers
  sleeping slipping
  sleeps slips
  sleepy slippy
sleet slit
  sleeting slitting
  sleets slits
sneak snick
  sneaked snicked
  sneakers snickers
  sneaking snicking
  sneaks snicks
speak spick
steal still
  stealing stilling
  steals stills
steel still
  steeled stilled
  steels stills
steely stilly
steeple stipple
  steeples stipples
stelae stilly
streaked strict
teak tic
teak tick
teal till
team Tim
teases tizzies
teat tit
  teats tits
teem Tim
teen tin
  teens tins
teenier tinnier
  teeniest tinniest
  teeny tinny
teeter titter
  teetered tittered
  teetering tittering
  teeters titters
treacle trickle
trustee trusty
tureen Turin
'tween twin
tweet twit
  tweeted twitted
  tweeter twitter
  tweeters twitters
  tweeting twitting
V's viz
warrantee warranty
  warrantees warranties
weak wick
  weaker wicker
weal will
  weals wills
weald willed
wean whin
wean win
  weans wins
weaned wind
weaner winner
  weaning winning
week wick
  weeks wicks
weeny whinny
weep whip
  weeping whipping
  weeps whips
wees whiz
wheat whit
wheat wit
wheel will
  wheeled willed
  wheeling willing
  wheels wills
wheeze whizz
  wheezed whizzed
  wheezes whizzes
  wheezing whizzing
wield willed
weeny Winnie
wreak rick
  wreaked ricked
  wreaks ricks
wreak wrick
  wreaked wricked
  wreaks wricks
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John Higgins, Shaftesbury, January 2011