Vowels 7 and 17, /ɔ/ versus //    131 pairs      [torntown.html]

The /ɔ/ vowel is usually spelled <or>, <our>, and <oar>, but we also see <al> in call, <au> in sauce, <aw> in dawn and <ar> after <w> in war and water. The // diphthong is spelled <ow> or <ou>.

This is a contrast between a long vowel and a diphthong. The starting positions are fairly close in the mouth and, although there is a difference of lip-rounding, there is potential for confusion. It is a recognised difficulty for speakers of Norwegian and perhaps some others.

Interesting pairs include:

debauch debouch
Norse nous
waterfall waterfowl

The density figure is 6.14%. The set makes 71 semantic contrasts giving a loading of 54.2%.

abort about
all owl
aught out
awl owl
  awls owls
bawd bowed
befall befoul
  befalling befouling
  befalls befouls
board bowed
boar bough
  boars boughs
bore bough
  bores boughs
bought bout
brawn brown
brawny brownie
call cowl
  called cowled
  calling cowling
  callings cowlings
  calls cowls
cause cows 
caw cow
  cawed cowed
  cawing cowing
  caws cows
chaw chow
  chaws chows
Claud cloud
daw dhow
  daws dhows
dawn down
  dawned downed
  dawning downing
  dawns downs
debauch debouch
  debauched debouched
  debauches debouches
  debauching debouching
door dhow
  doors dhows
drawers drowse
drawn drown
fall foul
  falling fouling
  falls fouls
Fawley foully
fawned found
ghat gout
gnaw now
gorge gouge
  gorged gouged
  gorges gouges
  gorging gouging
hall howl
  halls howls
haul howl  
  hauled howled
  hauling howling	
  hauls howls
haw how
haws house
hoarder howdah
  hoarders howdahs
hoarse house
horned hound
horsefly housefly
  horseflies houseflies
horseman houseman
laud loud
lord loud
lordly loudly
maw mow
  maws mows
Morse mouse
mourned mound
naught knout 
  naughts knouts 
nor now
Norse nous
pawned pound	
porch pouch
  porches pouches
port pout
  ported pouted
  porting pouting
  ports pouts
raw row
roar row
  roars rows
  roared rowed
roars rouse
sauce souse
  sauced soused
  sauces souses
  saucing sousing
saw sow
scald scowled
score scow
  scores scows
short shout
  shorted shouted
  shorting shouting
  shorts shouts
slaw Slough 
snort snout
  snorts snouts
soar sow
  soars sows
source souse
  sources souses
  sourced soused
  sourcing sousing
spores spouse
sport spout
  sported spouted
  sporting spouting
  sports spouts
strawed Stroud 
torn town
tort tout
  torts touts
warned wound
war wow
  wars wows
waterfall waterfowl
  waterfalls waterfowls
wrought rout 
yawl yowl
  yawls yowls

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, December 2009