I'm certain there's a better way to entitle this question, so maybe someone can edit it.

Consider the word the word "we'll". My understanding of the Fill-Feel Merger means "we'll" could end up sounding like "wheel". In fact, I'm pretty sure I've heard that pronunciation in a southern and/or Black English.

Assuming that does become the prominent pronunciation, does that imply that the pronunciation of "wheel" will change? I imagine there are other examples of homonyms developing in this way. Does one word typically "win" over time and keep its pronunciation longer? I guess I'm asking if homonyms change at a greater rate than other words; and, of so, is there a pattern to it like: the more frequently used word "wins" or is more resistant to change?

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    This is just a side comment, but the pin-pen merger isn't relevant to "we'll" and "wheel". The pin-pen merger is a merger of the sounds /ɪ/ (as in "kit") and /ɛ/ (as in "dress") before a nasal consonant (/n/, /m/, or /ŋ/ as in "sing"--although in some accents vowels before /ŋ/ have special further changes). The word "wheel" is usually pronounced /wiːl/, with the /iː/ vowel of "fleece" and the non-nasal final consonant /l/. Feb 27, 2019 at 21:23
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    "We'll" and "wheel" -aren't- already the same? (I thought I spoke standard GenAmE)
    – Mitch
    Feb 28, 2019 at 0:05
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    If (like myself) you pronounce we'll and wheel the same, that's usually the WINE-WHINE merger, affecting the consonants. I've not heard the vowels being pronounced differently, but I'll have to do some more research.
    – Michaelyus
    Feb 28, 2019 at 10:54
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    The merger of We'll and wheel (fill–feel merger) is independent of the pin–pen merger and is observed in the US South and, indeed, Black English. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – Nardog
    Feb 28, 2019 at 11:45
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    @nardog Surely the relevant example for the FILL-FEEL merger is will - we'll.
    – Michaelyus
    Feb 28, 2019 at 16:38


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