Minimal Pair List Vowels 4 and 13, /æ/ versus / eɪ / 284 pairs
The /æ/ vowel is spelled <a> followed by two consonants or by one consonant in a monosyllable. The / eɪ / diphthong is most often spelled <aCV> as in ape or halo , but we also see in this list <ai> in paint and <ei> in feign . It also occurs in the letter names A and J . In several words of French origin such as crêpe , crèche and fête , spellings with <ê> or <è> are given the / eɪ / pronunciation, but many speakers will use /e/ instead. Notice the occurrence of the homographs bass (fish and low voice) and pasty (Cornish pie, pale-looking). Confusable but doubtfully minimal is randier/reindeer , since randier has three syllables and reindeer only two. The two different spellings of renascence/renaissance form a contrasting pair but have the same meaning.
This contrast is between a short vowel and a diphthong, so it should not cause problems. Indeed many of the problems that do arise are probably due to unfamiliarity with a particular spelling rather than difficulty with the sounds. For languages which do not have an / eɪ / diphthong and replace it with a monophthong, this may cause a problem, as it is known to do for both French and German speakers.
One potential embarrassing pair is brassière/brazier . This was a confusion that was famously exploited in the film Room at the Top , where the hero exposes his lack of education by mispronouncing brazier and is laughed at.
Interesting pairs include:
The density value is 2.83%. The pairs make 140 semantic contrasts, giving a loading of 55.6%.
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