Consonants /n/ versus /r/, 286 pairs     [nagrag.html]

The /n/ sound is spelled with <n>, <nn>, <kn> or <gn> in gnu. The /r/ sound is spelled with <r>, <rr> or <wr> in wrap. Notice how the homographs furrier pairs with fernier and funnier and row with know and now.

This is a contrast between a nasal and a retroflex continuant, both in the alveolar region and both voiced. It can only occur initially or medially. It may be a problem for some learners in medial position, since the normal RP allophone of /r/ in this position is a single tap which is not very different from /n/.

Taboo word pairs include nigger/rigger.

In many cases a contrast only arises when a verb is inflected, as in adorning/adoring since the <r> is silent when final in the syllable. Fourteen of the pairs derive from various inflections and derivations of nation and ration, though the root words do not form a minimal pair. Other interesting pairs include:

banister barrister
explanation exploration
humanist humorist
manage marriage
nectar rector
onyx oryx
siphoning ciphering

The mean density value is 1.2%. The lists make 158 semantic distinctions, a loading of 55%.

adorning adoring 
almoner armourer
  almoners armourers
alternation alteration 
  alternations alterations 
banister barrister
  banisters barristers
bannock barrack
  bannocks barracks
Benny Bury
cannon Carron 
cannot carat
cannot carrot
canny carry
  cannier carrier
connect correct
  connected corrected
  connecting correcting
  connects corrects
connection correction
  connections corrections
connective corrective
  connectives correctives
Connie corrie
corning coring 
denied deride
earning erring
explanation exploration
  explanations explorations
ferny furry
  fernier furrier
  ferniest furriest
funnier furrier
gnash rash
  gnashes rashes
gnaw raw
gnaw roar
  gnawed roared
  gnaws roars
gnome Rome 
gnome roam
  gnomes roams
gnu rue
honey hurry
  honeyed hurried
  honeys hurries
horny hoary 
  hornier hoarier 
  horniest hoariest 
humanist humorist
  humanists humorists
impunity impurity
interning interring
jennies jerries
Jenny Gerry 
keening keyring
Kenny Kerry
knack rack
  knacks racks
knap rap
  knapped rapped
  knapping rapping
  knaps raps
knap wrap
  knapped wrapped
  knapping wrapping
  knaps wraps
knave rave
  knaves raves
knead read
  kneading reading
  kneads reads
knee re
kneecap recap
  kneecaps recaps
kneel reel
  kneeled reeled
  kneeling reeling
  kneels reels
kneel real
knife rife
knight Rheydt 
knight right
  knighted righted
  knighting righting
  knights rights
knightly rightly
knives rives
knob rob 
  knobs robs
knock roc
  knocked rocked
  knocking rocking
  knocks rocks
knocker rocker
  knockers rockers
knoll rôle
  knolls rôles
knoll roll
  knolls rolls
knot rot
  knotted rotted
  knotting rotting
  knots rots
knout rout
  knouts routs
know roe
know row
  knowing rowing
  knows rows
known roan
knows rose 
Lorna Laura 
manage marriage
  manages marriages
manageable marriageable
  manageability marriageability
many merry
mono morrow
née ray 
nag rag
  nagged ragged
  nagging ragging
  nags rags
nail rail
  nailed railed
  nailing railing
  nails rails
nap rap
  napped rapped
  napping rapping
  naps raps
nap wrap
  napped wrapped
  napping wrapping
  naps wraps
nape rape
  napes rapes
Nat rat
national rational
  nationally rationally
nationalism rationalism
  nationalist rationalist
  nationalists rationalists
  nationalistic rationalistic
nationality rationality
  nationalities rationalities
nationalization rationalization
  nationalizations rationalizations
nationalize rationalize
  nationalized rationalized
  nationalizes rationalizes
  nationalizing rationalizing
natter ratter
  natters ratters
natty ratty
  nattier rattier
  nattiest rattiest
near rear
  neared reared
  nearing rearing
  nears rears
nearly really
neck wreck
  necked wrecked
  necking wrecking
  necks wrecks
necklace reckless
necks Rex 
nectar rector
Ned read	  
Ned red
Neddy ready
need read
  needing reading
  needs reads
needy reedy
  needier reedier
  neediest reediest
ne'er rare
neighed raid
neighs raise
neighs rays
nest rest
  nested rested
  nesting resting
  nests rests
nestle wrestle
  nestled wrestled
  nestles wrestles
  nestling wrestling
net ret
  netted retted
  netting retting
  nets rets
nib rib
  nibs ribs
nice rice
Nick Rick
nigger rigger
  niggers riggers
niggle wriggle
  niggled wriggled
  niggles wriggles
  niggling wriggling
nigh rye
nigh wry
  nigher wrier
  nighest wriest
night right
  nighted righted
  nighting righting
  nights rights
nightly rightly
nil Rhyl 
nil rill
nine Rhine 
nipple ripple
  nipples ripples
nitre writer
nitrous rightness
no roe
no row
nod rod 
  nods rods
node road
  nodes roads
none run
nook rook
  nooks rooks
noon rune
noosed roost
nope rope
nor roar
Norton Wroughton
nose rose
  noses roses
nosey rosy
  nosier rosier
  nosiest rosiest
nostrum rostrum
  nostrums rostrums
not rot
notary rotary
  notaries rotaries
notation rotation
  notations rotations
note rote
note wrote
nought wrought
nova rover
  novas rovers
now row
nub rub
  nubs rubs
numb rum
number rumba
  numbers rumbas
nun run
  nuns runs
nut rut
  nuts ruts
  nutted rutted
  nutting rutting
onyx oryx
ornate orate 
pawning poring
pawning pouring
Penny perry
picnic picric
scorning scoring 
sinner sirrah
  sinners sirrahs
siphoning ciphering 
sonny Surrey 
sonority sorority
  sonorities sororities
spurning spurring
summoning summering 	  
sunny Surrey
tawny Tory 
tenable terrible
tenner terror
  tenners terrors
unconnected uncorrected
warning warring

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, December 2010.