Vowels 11 and 16, /3/ versus /əʊ/     179 pairs       [burnbone.html]

The /3/ vowel is spelled with <er>, <ir>, <ear>, <ur>, and <or> in work. The /əʊ/ diphthong is spelled <oCe>, or <oa>, <ow>, and appears in the letter name O.

This is a contrast between a long vowel and a diphthong. The starting positions are very close, and it can be a problem particularly for learners who try too hard to imitate an RP /əʊ/, notably Scandinavians.

Interesting pairs include:

earldom Oldham
fermentation fomentation
immersion emotion

The density figure is 5.81%. The set makes 88 semantic contrasts giving a loading of 49.2%.

Bernie bony
bestir bestow
  bestirred bestowed
  bestirs bestows
bird bode
  birds bodes
blur blow
  blurred blowed 
  blurs blows 
blurt bloat
  blurted bloated 
  blurting bloating
  blurts bloats
burn bone
  burned boned 
  burning boning 
  burns bones 
burner boner 
  burners boners 
burr bow
  burrs bows
burr beau
  burrs beaux 
burst boast 
  bursting boasting 
  bursts boasts 
curd code 
  curds codes 
curl coal 
  curling coaling 
  curls coals 
  curled coaled 
curler cola
  curlers colas 
cursed coast 
curt coat 
curve cove 
  curves coves 
dirge doge
  dirges doges
dirt dote
dirtied doted
dirty dhoti 
  dirties dhotis 
durst dosed 
earldom Oldham 
earn own
  earned owned
  earning owning
  earns owns
err O
  errs O's 
erred ode
erred owed
fermentation fomentation
fern phone
  ferns phones
ferny phoney
firm foam
  firmed foamed
  firming foaming
  firms foams
fir foe
  firs foes
flirt float
  flirted floated
  flirting floating
  flirts floats
flirtation floatation
  flirtations floatations
fur foe
  furs foes
furl foal 
  furled foaled 
  furling foaling 
  furls foals 
gird goad
  girded goaded
  girding goading
  girds goads
girl goal
  girls goals
heard hoed
Herne hone
her hoe
  hers hoes
hurl hole 
  hurled hold 
  hurling holing 
  hurls holes 
immersion emotion 
  immersions emotions 
incurred encode 
intern intone
  interned intoned
  interning intoning
  interns intones
irk oak
  irks oaks
jerk joke
  jerked joked
  jerking joking
  jerks jokes
journey Joanie 
kirk coke 
  kirks cokes
Kirkby Kobe
kirks coax 
learn loan
  learned loaned
  learning loaning
  learns loans
learn lone
murk moke 
pearl pole
  pearls poles
pearl poll  
  pearled polled
  pearling polling
  pearls polls 
perch poach
  perched poached
  perches poaches
  perching poaching
perk poke
  perked poked
  perking poking
  perks pokes
perky poky
  perkier pokier
  perkiest pokiest
purrs pose 
pursed post 
sir sew
  sirs sews
sir so
sir sow  
  sirs sows
slur slow
  slurred slowed 
  slurs sloes 
smirk smoke
  smirked smoked
  smirking smoking
  smirks smokes
spurred Spode 
stern stone 
  sterns stones
stir stow
  stirred stowed
  stirs stows
surd sowed 
surly solely 
tern tone
  terns tones
tourney Tony 
turd toad 
  turds toads 
Turk toque
Turks toques
turn tone
  turned toned 
  turning toning 
  turns tones
turps topes 
turtle total 
  turtles totals 
ugh O 
unfurled unfold 
urban Oban 
were woe
weren't won't
whirled wold
whirr woe
  whirrs woes
whirred woad
work woke 
world wold
  worlds wolds 

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, December 2009