Vowels 1 and 18, /i/ versus /ɪə/. 125 pairs    [feefear.html]

I have excluded from the list several pairs thrown up by the program in which /i/ is contrasted with /ɪə/ where it appears to be two syllables and not a diphthong, eg draftee/draughtier, e'en/Ian oversee/overseer, protein/protean and trustee/trustier.

The /i/ vowel appears in all its common spellings, including the letter names B, C, D, E, G, P, T and V, as well as the musical note names mi and ti. The diphthong /ɪə/ appears as <eer>, <ear>, <eCe> in mere, <ier> in pierce and <eir> in weir and weird.

This set may be a problem for some learners, and even some native speakers, since the tongue positions are very similar and all that is different is the monophthong versus diphthong contrast. Speakers of rhotic varieties rely on the post-vocalic -r to distinguish the sounds, and may have trouble with the contrast as made by RP speakers.

The pairs pee/pier and wee/weir with their inflections are the only ones which might cause embarrassment.

Interesting pairs include:

appease appears
cheese cheers
indeed endeared
quiche kirsch
sneeze sneers

The mean density value is 2.5%. There 87 semantic contrasts, giving a semantic loading of 65%.

appease appears 
B beer
  B's beers
B bier
  B's biers
be beer
be bier
bead beard
  beading bearding
  beads beards
bee beer
  bees beers
bee bier
  bees biers
C sear
  C's sears
C seer
  C's seers
C sere
cede seared
cheese cheers
D dear
  D's dears
D deer
E ear
  E's ears
ease ears
fee fear
  fees fears
feed feared
G jeer
  G's jeers
gee jeer
ghee gear
he hear
he here
indeed endeared
knead neared
knee near
  knees nears
  kneed neared
lea leer
  leas leers
lead leered
lean lien
  leans liens
lee leer
  lees leers
Leigh leer
me mere
mealie merely
mi mere
need neared
P peer
  P's peers
P pier
  P's piers
pea peer
  peas peers
pea pier
  peas piers
peace pierce
pease peers
pease piers
pee peer
  peed peered
  pees peers
pee pier
  pees piers
piece pierce
  pieced pierced
  pieces pierces
  piecing piercing
quiche kirsch 
re rear
re rhea
read reared
reed reared
reel real 
sea sear
  seas sears
sea seer
  seas seers
sea sere
see sear
  sees sears
see seer
  sees seers
see sere
seed seared
seize sears
seize seers
she shear
she sheer
sneeze sneers 
speed speared 
steed steered
T tear
  T's tears
T tier
  T's tiers
tea tear
  teas tears
tea tier
  teas tiers
tease tears
tease tiers
tee tear
  tees tears
tee tier
  tees tiers
ti tear
ti tier
V veer
  V's veers
we Wear
we weir
we'd weird
wee Wear
wee weir
  wees weirs
weed weird
  weedy weirdie
wheeze weirs
ye year

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, January 2011
updated Chiang Mai, 2024