Vowels 16 and 20, /əʊ/ versus /ʊə/    20 pairs      [lowlure.html]

The /əʊ/ diphthong is spelled <oCe>, <oe>, <oa>, <ow>, and <eau> in beau. The /ʊə/ diphthong is spelled <ure>, <oor> or <our>.

This is a contrast between two diphthongs with different starting positions and direction of movement. In fact they form an almost perfect reversal; record one and play it back reversed and it will sound like the other (which is a very good way to persuade students that /əʊ/ is a diphthong). It is not a problem for learners.

The density figure is 1.9%. The set makes 11 semantic contrasts giving a loading of 55%.

beau boor
  beaux boors
bow boor
  bows boors  
bone bourn
  bones bourns
goad gourd
  goads gourds
lode lured
low lure
  lows lures
  lowed lured
mode moored
mow moor
  mows moors 
toad toured
toe tour
  toes tours
tow tour
  tows tours  

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, December 2009