The /3/ vowel is spelled with <er>, <ir>, <ear>, <ur>, and <yr> in myrrh. The /eə/ diphthong is spelled <are>, <air> and <ayr>.
This is a contrast between a long vowel and a diphthong. The starting positions are well separated in the mouth, but there is a potential problem for learners who try to articulate the post-vocalic -r.
Interesting pairs include:
The density figure is 5.61%. The set makes 28 semantic contrasts giving a loading of 51.9%.
bird bared blur blare blurred blared blurring blaring blurs blares burr bare burrs bares burly barely burn bairn burns bairns cur care curs cares curd cared err air erred aired erring airing errs airs err ere err heir errs heirs err Ayr fir fair firs fairs fur fair furs fairs furze fairs furnace fairness furry fairy heard hared her hair hers hairs myrrh mare per pair purr pair purred paired purring pairing purrs pairs spur spare spurred spared spurring sparing spurs spares stir stair stirs stairs stir stare stirred stared stirring staring stirs stares were ware were wear whirr ware whirrs wares whirr wear whirring wearing whirrs wears
John Higgins, Shaftesbury, December 2009