/i/ versus /ʊə/   40 pairs     [teatour.html]

The /ʊə/ diphthong ranks eighteenth in frequency among the English vowels, which partly accounts for the shortness of this list.

39 of the 40 pairs are monosyllables. Spellings of /i/ include <ee>, <ea>, the letter names B, D, P and T, the musical note names mi and ti, Spellings of /ʊə/ are <oor>, <ure>, and <our>, together with the exceptional <ewe> and <ue> in crewel/cruel.

There might be some dispute over the <lure> spelling, as to whether there is palatalisation and whether that would render these pairs non-minimal. Note the partial homograph tours, plural of tour, and Tours, the French city with an anglicised vowel sound.

The mean density value is 1%. The 40 pairs make 31 semantic contrasts, giving a high loading of 78%.

alee allure
B boor
  B's boors
be boor
bean bourne
  beans bournes
bee boor
  bees boors
been bourne	
creel crewel
  creels crewels
creel cruel
D dour
lea lure
  leas lures
lead lured
lee lure
  lees lures
me moor
mead moored
meed moored
mi moor
P poor
pea poor
pee poor
she sure
T tour
  T's tours
T Tours
tea tour
tea Tours
teas tours
tease tours
tee tour
  teed toured
  tees tours
tee Tours
ti tour
ti Tours
ye you're

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, January 2011.