Consonants /v/ versus //, 30 pairs     [vowthou.html]

The /v/ sound is spelled with <v> or <ve>. The // sound is spelled <th>.

The contrast is between a labio-dental fricative and a dental and alveolar fricative, both voiced. The sounds are so similar that they cause problems even to native speakers, and a common error among children is to write or say "cloves" for "clothes". An uneducated speaker in a novel might be shown as saying "I won't breave a word about it, guv." Luckily the contrast is so rare that it causes few problems. A number of the pairs involve rare or obsolete words.

Interesting pairs include:

fervour further
never nether
sliver slither

The mean density value is 0.9%, giving some support to the O'Connor conjecture. The list makes 22 semantic distinctions, a loading of 73%.

breve breathe
  breves breathes
clove clothe
  cloves clothes
fervour further
hive Hythe
Iver either
lave lathe
  laves lathes
live lithe
loaves loathes
never nether
oaves oaths
privy prithee
reeve wreathe
  reeves wreathes
sheaves sheathes
sliver slither
  slivered slithered
  slivering slithering
  slivers slithers
V thee
V's these
vale they'll
van than
vat that
  vats that's
vie thy
vine thine
vow thou

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, October 2010.