Pronunciation exercises: /ɪə/ vs /ɪ/

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In Received Pronunciation mirror and nearer have a different first vowel, i.e. these two words don't rhyme.

In General American there is no phoneme /ɪə/, because the difference between [ɪə] and [ɪ] is predictable: between vowels the sound is normally [ɪ], as in nearer [ˈnɪrər], in all other cases it's [ɪə] as in near [nɪər]. This means that mirror and nearer rhyme. In the United States people who distinguish these phonemes leave in the Northeast or South.[1]


  • With "er": Algeria - criterion - era - experience - interior - material - Nigeria - period - series - serious - we're
  • Ending in "ering": adhering, persevering
  • with "ear": appearance
  • ending in "earing": appearing - clearing - fearing - hearing
  • with "ee": cheerio,BrE eerie
  • ending in "eering": engineering, volunteering
  • BrE /ɪə/, AmE /ɪə/ or /iːə/: theory
  • BrE /ɪə/, AmE /ɪə/ or /iː/: hero, zero


  • With "ir": conspiracy, delirious, miracle, mirage, satiric, spirit
  • With "yr": lyric, pyramid, syringe, tyranny
  • With "irr": irradiate, irrational, irregular, mirror

/ɪə/ vs /ɪ/[edit]

  • serious - Sirius;


  1. Wikipedia, English-language vowel changes before historic /r/ § Mirror–nearer merger.

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