Vowels 6 and 16, /ɒ/ versus /əʊ/    231 pairs      [socksoak.html]

The /ɒ/ vowel is spelled <o>, or <a> after <w> in was and want. The /əʊ/ diphthong is spelled <oCe>, <oa>, <ow>, <ew> in shewn and <au> in the loan word gauche, and occurs in the letter name O. Notice the partial homographs job/Job and polish/Polish.

This contrast is between a short rounded vowel and an unrounded diphthong. The starting position of the tongue in the mouth is fairly close. Many languages (and indeed many accents of English other than RP) have no diphthong corresponding to /əʊ/ and will substitute a monophthong [o] which will be heard as /ɒ/ or /ɔ/, and the spelling is likely to encourage this. All this makes this a recognised problem for speakers of Spanish, Italian, Greek, Arabic, Chinese and Swahili, and probably for many other learners too.

One mildly taboo word pair is cock/coke.

Interesting pairs include:

bonny bony
comma coma
dotty dhoti
honour owner
lolly lowly
robot rowboat

The density value is 3.6%. The pairs make 113 semantic contrasts, giving a loading of 48.9%.

bloc bloke	
  blocs blokes
block bloke
  blocks blokes
blot bloat	  
  blotting bloating
  blotted bloated 
  blots bloats
blotter bloater 
  blotters bloaters 
bod boed
bod bowed 
bodied boded 
boggy bogey 
bond boned
Bonn bone
bonny bony
  bonnier bonier 
  bonniest boniest 
bossed boast 
choc choke
  chocs chokes
chock choke
  chocked choked
  chocking choking
  chocks chokes
choler cola
  cholers colas
collar cola
  collars colas  
clock cloak 
  clocked cloaked 
  clocking cloaking 
  clocks cloaks 
cock coke
  cocked coked
  cocking coking
  cocks cokes
cocks coax 
cod code
  codded coded
  codding coding
  cods codes 
col coal 
  cols coals 
comma coma 
  commas comas 
comma comber
  commas combers
con Colne 
con cone
  conned coned 
  conning coning 
  cons cones 
Connie coney
consols consoles 
cop cope
  copping coping 
  copped coped
  cops copes 
Copt coped
cost coast
  costed coasted 
  costing coasting 
  costs coasts 
cot coat 
  cots coats 
cox coax
  coxed coaxed 
  coxes coaxes 
  coxing coaxing 
crock croak 
  crocked croaked 
  crocking croaking 
  crocks croaks 
dodge doge
  dodges doges
doll dole 
  dolled doled 
  dolling doling 
  dolls doles 
doss dose 
  dossed dosed 
  dosses doses 
  dossing dosing 
dot dote
  dots dotes 
  dotted doted 
  dotting doting 
dotty dhoti 
foggy fogey 
fond phoned
fox folks 
  foxy folksy 
god goad
  gods goads 
golly goalie 
gosh gauche 
got goat 
grot groat 
  grots groats 
hocks hoax 
hod hoed
holly holy
Hon hone
honour owner
  honours owners
hop hope 
  hopped hoped 
  hopping hoping 
  hops hopes 
job Job 
  jobs Jobs 
John Joan 
Johnny Joanie 
knobble noble
  knobbles nobles
  knobbly nobly
knot note
  knotted noted
  knotting noting
  knots notes
lob lobe
  lobbed lobed
  lobs lobes 
Lodz loads
loft loafed 
lolly lowly
lop lope
  lopped loped 
  lopping loping 
  lops lopes 
mock moke
  mocks mokes
Mod mode
  Mods modes
model modal  
  models modals
moll mole 
  molls moles 
mop mope
  mopped moped 
  mopping moping 
  mops mopes 
nod node
  nods nodes 
odd ode
  odds odes
odd owed  
odder odour
off oaf 
on own
ox oaks 
oz O's 
pock poke
  pocked poked
  pocks pokes
polish Polish 
poll pole 
  polls poles 
pop Pope 
  pops Popes 
rhomb Rome 
rhomb roam
  rhombs roams
rob robe
  robbed robed
  robbing robing
  robs robes 
robot rowboat
  robots rowboats
rod road
  rods roads 
rod rode
rod rowed
Ron roan
roster roaster 
  rosters roasters 
rot rote
rot wrote
rotter rotor 
  rotters rotas 
shod shewed 
shone shewn 
slop slope
  slopped sloped 
  slopping sloping 
  slops slopes 
smock smoke
  smocked smoked
  smocking smoking
  smocks smokes
soccer soaker 
sock soak 
  socked soaked 
  socking soaking 
  socks soaks 
sod sowed 
Sol Seoul 
sop soap 
  sops soaps 
  sopped soaped 
  sopping soaping 
soppy soapy 
  soppier soapier 
  soppiest soapiest 
stock stoke
  stocked stoked
  stocking stoking
  stocks stokes
toddy toady 
  toddies toadies 
Tom tome
top tope
  topped toped
  topping toping 
  tops topes
topper toper 
  toppers topers 
tossed toast 
tot tote
  tots totes 
  totted toted 
  totting toting 
unwanted unwonted
vol vole
  vols voles 
wad woad
want won't
  wanted wonted
was woes

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, November 2009