Vowels 18 and 19, /ɪə/ versus /eə/    100 pairs      [hearhair.html]

The /ɪə/ diphthong is spelled <eer>, <ear> or <ier>. The /eə/ diphthong is spelled <air>, <ear> or <are>.

This is a contrast between two diphthongs with a difference in starting position but with the same direction of movement. It is a problem for learners and some native speakers, especially New Zealanders.

Interesting pairs include:

really rarely

The density figure is 10.4%. The set makes 47 semantic contrasts giving a loading of 47%.

beer bare
  beers bares
beer bear
  beers bears
bier bare
  biers bares
bier bear
  biers bears
beard bared
cheer chair 
  cheered chaired
  cheering chairing 
  cheers chairs 
cheery chary 
clear Clare
compeer compare 
  compeers compares 
dear dare
  dears dares
dearie dairy 
  dearies dairies
ear air
  ears airs
ear ere
ear heir
  ears heirs  
eerie airy
  eerily airily 
earring airing 
  earrings airings 
fear fair 
  fears fairs 
fear fare
  feared fared 
  fearing faring 
  fears fares
hear hair 
  hears hairs 
hear hare
  hears hares
  hearing haring
here hair
here hare
leer lair
  leers lairs 
leered laird 
mere mare 
  meres mares 
near ne'er 
peer pair 
  peered paired 
  peering pairing
  peers pairs 
peer pear
  peers pears
peer pare
  peered pared
  peering paring
  peers pares
pier pair
  piers pairs  
pier pear
  piers pears
pier pare
  piers pares  
rear rare 
really rarely 
rearing raring 
rhea rare
shear share 
  sheared shared
  shears shares 
  shearing sharing 
sheer share
sneer snare 
  sneered snared 
  sneers snares 
  sneering snaring 
spear spare 
  speared spared 
  spears spares 
  spearing sparing 
steer stair 
  steers stairs 
steer stare
  steers stares
  steered stared 
  steering staring 
tear tare 
  tears tares 
weir ware
  weirs wares
weir wear
  weirs wears  
weird wared 
weary wary 
  wearier warier 
  weariest wariest
  wearily warily
  weariness wariness

John Higgins, Chiang Mai, April 2024