The list is fairly short since the vowel /ə/, schwa, occurs only in unstressed contexts whereas vowel /i/ is most commonly found in stressed or relatively prominent environments. Many of the pairs in this list arise from contrasting the learned -ae plurals with the singular of Latin nouns ending in -a. Several others contrast the -ee passive-forming suffix with the -er agentive suffix. A few contrast full words with weak-forms of function words, such as keys/cos, thee/the and tea/to.
Pairs such as edicts/addicts (the verb), emus/amuse, keynotes/connotes, seaborne/suborn and unique/eunuch differ in stress as well as the vowel, so they are not strictly minimal pairs. It could also be argued that the -ee and -er pairs, such as payee/payer, differ in secondary stress. With the lei/layer pair, the layer word is the two-syllable word meaning one who lays rather than its one-syllable homograph meaning a stratum.
Speakers of syllable-timed languages may have some problems with this set.
The mean density value is small at 0.4%. The 66 pairs make 54 semantic contrasts, giving a very high semantic load of 82%.
AD Ada algae Alger alumnae alumna amoebae amoeba amphorae amphora antennae antenna Dives divers E a e'en an e'en 'un edict addict edicts addicts emus amuse formulae formula grandee grander Hellene Helen Hindi hinder ie ayah ie ire keynote connote keynotes connotes keys cos lacunae lacuna larvae larva larvae lava lei layer leis layers lessee lesser marquee marker marquees markers MB ember nebulae nebula nebulae nebular novae nova NT enter payee payer payees payers prevision provision previsions provisions pupae pupa quays cos retinae retina seaborne suborn seaport support seaports supports seaweed seaward seaweeds seawards settee setter settees setters sortie sorter sorties sorters T to tea to tee to tempi temper thee the ti to tibiae tibia trainee trainer trainees trainers tracheae trachea ulnae ulna unique eunuch vendee vendor vendees vendors vertebrae vertebra
Credit: John Higgins