The /aɪ/ diphthong is spelled <iCe>, <i>, <y> and <ey> in eye, besides occurring in the letter names I and Y. The /eə/ diphthong is spelled <are>, <air>, <ear> or <eir> in heir.
This is a contrast between two diphthongs with different starting positions and different directions of movement. It is not a problem for learners.
Interesting pairs include:
The density figure is high at 10%. The set makes 55 semantic contrasts giving a loading of 57.3%.
bide bared bine bairn bines bairns buy bare buys bares buy bear buys bears by bare by bear bye bare byes bares bye bear byes bears chide chaired despise despairs die dare dies dares died dared dye dare dyes dares dyed dared eye air eyes airs eye heir eyes heirs eye ere fly flair flies flairs fly flare flies flares glide glared hi hair hi hare hide hared hie hair hies hairs hie hare hies hares hied hared high hair highs hairs high hare highs hares I air I's airs I heir I's heirs I ere I'd aired kine cairn lie lair lies lairs lie layer lies layers lied laird nine Nairn pi pair pi pare pi pear pie pair pied paired pies pairs pie pare pie pares pied pared pie pear pies pears pry prayer pries prayers shy share shied shared shies shares sky scare skied scared skies scares snide snared spy spare spied spared spies spares sty stair sties stairs sty stare sties stares tie tare ties tares tie tear ties tears why ware why wear wide wared wry rare wryly rarely Y ware Y's wares Y wear Y's wears
John Higgins, Shaftesbury, December 2009