Consonants /p/ versus /w/, 433 pairs     [permworm.html]

The spelling of /p/ is always <p> and the /w/ semivowel is <w>, <wh>, <u> in suede and occurs initially in the exceptional words one and ones. Note that the contrast only occurs initially or within initial clusters.

The contrast is between a voiceless plosive and a semivowel. Both sounds are bilabial so there is a slight chance of mishearing in fluent speech. There is little risk of this being a systematic problem for any learner.

Interesting pairs include:

pillow willow
policy Wallasey
ponder wander
pottage wattage
spindle swindle

The mean density value is 4.5%. The list makes 226 semantic distinctions, a loading of 52%.

P we
P wee
  P's wees
P's wheeze
paced waist
paced waste
pack whack
  packed whacked
  packing whacking
  packs whacks
packer whacker
  packers whackers
packs wax
pact whacked
page wage
  paged waged
  pages wages
  paging waging
paid wade
paid weighed
pail wail
  pails wails
pail whale
  pails whales
pails Wales 
pain wain
  pains wains
pain wane
  pained waned
  paining waning
  pains wanes
pain Wayne 
pair ware 
  pairs wares
pair wear
  pairing wearing
  pairs wears
pair where
  pairs where's
pale wail
  paled wailed
  paling wailing
  pales wails
pale whale
  paled whaled
  pales whales
  paling whaling
paler whaler
pales Wales
pall wall
  palled walled
  palling walling
  palls walls
palter Walter 
pane wain
  panes wains
pane wane
  panes wanes
pane Wayne
pang whang
  pangs whangs
pare ware
  pares wares
pare wear
  pares wears
  paring wearing
pare where
  pares where's
paste waist
  pastes waists
paste waste
  pasted wasted
  pastes wastes
  pasting wasting
pate wait
  pates waits
pate weight
  pates weights
Paul wall
pause wars
pave waive
  paved waived
  paves waives
  paving waiving
pave wave
  paved waved
  paves waves
  paving waving
paw war
  pawed warred
  paws wars
paw wore
pawed ward
pawl wall
  pawls walls
pawn warn
  pawned warned
  pawning warning
  pawns warns
pawn worn
pax wax
  paxes waxes
pax whacks
pay way
  pays ways
pay weigh
  paying weighing
  pays weighs
pay whey
pea we
pea wee
  peas wees
peak weak
peak week
  peaks weeks
peal weal
  peals weals
peal we'll
peal wheel
  pealing wheeling
  pealed wheeled
  peals wheels
pealed weald
pealed wield
pear ware
  pears wares
pear wear
  pears wears
pear where
  pears where's
pearl whirl
  pearled whirled
  pearling whirling
  pearls whirls
pearl whorl
  pearled whorled
  pearls whorls
pearled world
peas wheeze
pease wees
pease wheeze
peat wheat
pee we
  peed we'd
pee wee
  peeing weeing
  pees wees
peed weed
peek weak
peek week
  peeks weeks
peel weal
  peels weals
peel we'll
peel wheel
  peeled wheeled
  peeling wheeling
  peels wheels
peeled weald
peeled wield
peer Wear 
peer weir
  peers weirs
peer we're
peered weird
pees wheeze
peeve we've
peeve weave
  peeves weaves
  peeving weaving
  peeves weaves
peke weak
peke week
  pekes weeks
pelt welt
  pelts welts
pen wen
  pens wens
pen when
  pens when's
pence whence
pending wending
penned wend
pepped wept
per were
per whirr
peri weary
  peris wearies
perk work
  perked worked
  perking working
  perks works
perm worm
  permed wormed
  perming worming
  perms worms
perry wherry
pert wert
Perth worth
pest west
pet wet
  pets wets
  petted wetted
  petting wetting
pet whet
  pets whets
  petted whetted
  petting whetting
Pete wheat
pi Y 
  pis Y's
pi why
  pis whys
pis wise
pick wick
  picks wicks
picker wicker
picket wicket
  pickets wickets
pie why
  pies whys
pie Y
  pies Y's 
pied wide
pier Wear
pier weir
  piers weirs
pier we're
pies wise
pig Whig 
  pigs Whigs 
pig wig
  pigged wigged
  pigging wigging
  pigs wigs
pigeon widgeon
  pigeons widgeons
pile while
  piled whiled
  piles whiles
  piling whiling
pile wile
  piles wiles 
piled wild
pill will
  pills wills
pillow willow
  pillows willows
pimple wimple
  pimples wimples
pin whin
  pins whins
pin win
  pinning winning
  pins wins
pinch winch
  pinched winched
  pinches winches
  pinching winching
pine whine
  pined whined
  pines whines
  pining whining
pine wine
  pined wined
  pines wines
pined wind
ping wing
  pinged winged
  pinging winging
  pings wings
pink wink
  pinked winked
  pinking winking
  pinks winks
pinned wind
pinny whinny
  pinnies whinnies
pinny Winnie 
pipe wipe
  piped wiped
  pipes wipes
  piping wiping
piper wiper
  pipers wipers
pip whip
  pipped whipped
  pipping whipping
  pips whips
pique weak
pique week
  piques weeks
pissed whist
pit whit 
  pits whits
pit wit
  pits wits
pitch which
pitch witch
  pitches witches
  pitching witching
pith withe
pity witty
pod wad
  podded wadded
  podding wadding
  pods wads
poke woke
policy Wallasey 
polled wold
Polly Wally
poly Wally
pond wand
  ponds wands
ponder wander
  pondered wandered
  pondering wandering
  ponders wanders
poof woof
  poofs woofs
pooh woo
pop whop
  popped whopped
  popping whopping
  pops whops
poppa whopper
  poppas whoppers
pore war
  pored warred
  pores wars
  poring warring
pore wore
pored ward
pork walk
porker walker
  porkers walkers
porn warn
porn worn
port wart
  ports warts
porter water
  porters waters
pose woes
posh wash
posher washer
pot watt
  pots watts
pot what
  pots what's
pot wot
pottage wattage
  pottages wattages
pouffe woof
  pouffes woofs
pound wound
pour war
  poured warred
  pouring warring
  pours wars
pour wore
poured ward
pud wood
pud would
pudden wooden
pull wool
  pulls wools
pulley woolly
  pulleys woolies
pun one 
  puns ones 
pun won
purl whirl
  purled whirled
  purling whirling
  purls whirls
purl whorl
  purled whorled
  purls whorls
purled world
purr were
purr whirr
  purred whirred
  purring whirring
  purrs whirrs
purred word
purse worse
pursed worst
Pyle while
Pyle wile
pyorrhoea wirier
pyre wire
  pyres wires
pyx wicks
spade suede
spade swayed
Spain swain
spam swam
spank swank
  spanked swanked
  spanking swanking
  spanks swanks
spare swear
  spares swears
  sparing swearing
spawn sworn
spay sway
  spayed swayed
  spaying swaying
  spays sways
spayed suede
speed Swede 
  speeds Swedes 
spell swell
  spelled swelled
  spells swells
spelling swelling
  spellings swellings
spill swill
  spilled swilled
  spilling swilling
  spills swills
spindle swindle
  spindles swindles
spine swine
spoon swoon
  spooned swooned
  spooning swooning
  spoons swoons
spore swore
spot swat
  spots swats
  spotted swatted
  spotting swatting

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, January 2010.