This list includes a number of homographs, the adjective and adverb pair cleanly, the verb and noun pair lead, and the present and past of the verb read with its derivatives lip-read, misread, proof-read and re-read There are several other cases of the /i/ versus /e/ distinction being used to signal present versus past of a verb, namely bleed/bled, breed/bred, feed/fed, feel/fell, plead/pled, and speed/sped, but in those cases we also see a change in the spelling. The strong verb eat/ate could also be included in this set, but this case is complicated by the existence of an alternative spelling-pronunciation for ate as /eɪt/. In the case of leaped/leapt we have differences of sound and spelling but not of meaning. Are they a minimal pair?
The /i/ vowel is commonly spelled with <ee>, <ea>, <ie> as in mien, niece and yield, <eCe> as in cede,
The fact that /i/ is normally long and /e/ short helps to reduce the difficulty of distinguishing this pair, though it may still cause trouble especially for speakers of syllable-timed languages. Speakers of Arabic and some languages of the Indian sub-continent may have problems. All speakers, however, may have problems with unfamiliar words simply because of the overlap in the spellings. A word like sweater is very likely to be pronounced /`switә/ at the first encounter.The pairs that seem most interesting include:
There is a slight potential for embarrassment with the pair seeks/sex.
The mean density is 3.9%. The semantic loading is 64%.
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John Higgins, Shaftesbury, January 2011.