Vowels 5 and 6, /ɑ/ versus /ɒ/    184 pairs      [tarttot.html]

The /ɑ/ vowel is usually spelled <ar> but we also find <al> in calf and <aa> in baas. The /ɒ/ vowel is spelled <o> followed by two consonants or one consonant in many monosyllables.

This contrast is between a long and a short vowel, but the tongue positions are very close. It is a recognised problem for Spanish and Swahili speakers, and probably causes confusion for many other groups of learners. In many dialects of American English the sounds are not distinguished, so those pairs where there is no <r> in the spelling would be homophones, as in the well-known example impassable/impossible.

Interesting pairs include:

ardour odder
armlet omelette
carton cotton
faster foster
larger lodger

The density value is 4.44%. The pairs make 98 semantic contrasts, giving a loading of 53.3%.

aft oft
arcs ox
ardour odder
armlet omelette
  armlets omelettes
baas boss
balm bomb
barb bob 
  barbed bobbed
  barbs bobs
barks box
barn Bonn 
Barnet bonnet
brass Bros 
calf cough
Cali collie
calmer comma
Calne con
can't cont
card cod
  carded codded
  carding codding
  cards cods
Carl col
carp cop
  carped copped
  carping copping
  carps cops
carped Copt
cart cot
  carts cots
cartage cottage
carter cottar
  carters cottars
carton cotton
  cartons cottons
cast cost
  casts costs
  casting costing
  castings costings
caste cost  
  castes costs
clerk clock
  clerked clocked
  clerking clocking
  clerks clocks
craft croft
  crafts crofts
daft doffed
dark dock
darker docker
darling dolling
darn don 
  darned donned
  darning donning
  darns dons
dart dot
  darted dotted
  darting dotting
  darts dots
farce fosse
  farces fosses
faster foster
garb gob
  garbs gobs
garble gobble
  garbled gobbled
  garbles gobbles
  garbling gobbling
gargle goggle
  gargled goggled
  gargles goggles
  gargling goggling
garner goner
  garners goners
garner gonna
Ghana goner
Ghana gonna
glass gloss
  glassed glossed
  glasses glosses
  glassing glossing
glassy glossy
  glassier glossier
  glassiest glossiest
Graz grots
guard God 
  guards gods 
hard hod
hark hock
  harked hocked
  harking hocking
  harks hocks
Harlow holloa
harp hop
  harped hopped
  harping hopping
  harps hops
harper hopper
  harpers hoppers
Hartley hotly
hasp Hosp 
hart hot
heart hot
  hearted hotted
  hearts hots
impassable impossible
karma comma 
  karmas commas 
khaki cocky 
khans cons 
lakh loch
  lakhs lochs
lards Lodz 
larger lodger
Largs logs
lark lock
  larked locked
  larking locking
  larks locks
last lost
laughed loft
Lens lance
Mali Molly
mark mock
  marked mocked
  marking mocking
  marks mocks
marker mocker
  markers mockers
mark-up mock-up
  mark-ups mock-ups
marl moll
marred Mod 
mask mosque
  masks mosques
nark knock 
  narked knocked 
  narking knocking 
  narks knocks 
palm pom
  palms poms
palmy pommy
park pock
  parked pocked
  parks pocks
parley poly
  parleys polys
part pot
  parted potted
  parting potting
  parts pots
party potty
  parties potties
passable possible
  passably possibly
pasture posture
  pastured postured
  pastures postures
  pasturing posturing
repast riposte
  repasts ripostes
R's oz
sahib sob
  sahibs sobs
sari sorry
scarf scoff
  scarfs scoffs
shard shod
shark shock
  sharks shocks
sharp shop
  sharps shops
sharper shopper
  sharpers shoppers
stark stock
tardy toddy
tart tot
  tarted totted
  tarting totting
  tarts tots
tartar totter
  tartars totters
yarn yon

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, June 2016